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AN INTERVIEW WITH MARIA ISABEL PITA
BY ROBERT WAGGONER
Author of historic fiction like Dreaming in Egypt-The Story of Asenath and Joseph, Maria Isabel Pita, also lucid dreams. In this DreamSpeak interview, the LDE takes a look at the sensual and metaphysical side of lucid dreaming.
From your blog, I see that you were born in Havana, Cuba, but left before you were one year old. Can you tell us a bit about that?
My family left Cuba in 1961 before Castro sealed the borders. My father was involved in the resistance against the totalitarian regime being imposed on Cubans and had to take refuge in the Brazilian Embassy. He would stand at the wrought iron fence looking out while my mother walked by holding me in her arms so he could see us. When I was four months old, she and I flew to Spain and for about four months we lived in Madrid in a school, Our Lady of Victories, run by nuns belonging to the same denomination as the convent school my mother attended most of her life, Our Lady of Lourdes. While we were there, the two young nuns who helped care for me—one of whom rocked me to sleep every night—drowned in a boating accident. The story haunted me as a child; I felt bound to them in some mysterious way. Dressed in long skirts and veils, they were helpless in the water. I was determined to somehow make up for their tragic and senseless death by never being so helpless myself. It’s interesting, since the ocean is such an archetypal symbol for the unconscious. At the time, people were being very helpful toward Cuban refugees and the captain of a ship bound for the U.S. gave my mother a free cabin we had all to ourselves. I arrived in Miami at the age of 8 months, but my father was soon offered a job with U.S.A.I.D. so we moved to Fairfax, Virginia, where I lived until I was seventeen.
What prompted your interest in dreams and dreaming?
When I was 11 years old, my mother had a dream in which she saw a dear friend of hers, a brilliant male surgeon, lying in a pool of blood. A bicycle had fallen from the sky and crushed his skull. At the end of this dream, on a large, luminous white page, she saw a long poem written in English. It appeared before her so clearly, she was able to write it down when she woke. The poem made reference to a tragic event that knowledge, time and love would transform into something beautiful. Less than two years later—even though she had never shown the slightest inclination toward becoming a writer—she published her first book of poems in Spanish. My mother, Juana Rosa Pita, is now considered one of Cuba’s most important poets in exile, and has been translated into English and Italian. Fifteen years later, my mother was going through some boxes after a move and came across the poem in English which started it all, and that night she dreamed with her surgeon friend. She dreamed she was standing at the railing of a ship and he was leaning on the same railing facing her, suspended above the ocean. Smiling ruefully, he told her he would no longer be able to be her friend, that she would have to be his friend now, and with that said, he plunged into the water and was lost. That morning my mother received a call informing her that as her friend was leaving work the previous night, he was attacked by two assailants who hit him on the head thirteen times with metal bars. Miraculously, he survived. He was a very wealthy man who was about to initiate a dream project of his—a large hospital ship that would cruise up and down the Nile in his home country of Egypt providing free medical care to the poor. The police, suspecting someone had tried to have him killed, brought in a psychic to sit by his unconscious body in the hospital (he was in a coma for 20 days) but all she picked up from him was the name Juana Rosa. As it happens, my mother was the only one in the room with him when he finally opened his eyes. Seeing her, he grasped her hand, kissed it and said, “Thank you.” The first thing she had done upon arriving at the hospital was pour water from Lourdes, given to her by another friend, over his forehead. The case was never solved, but I for one had learned that dreams are a powerfully important part of life, that they can transform you in dramatic and seemingly magical ways. I learned that in dreams time and space is somehow transcended because the future can be glimpsed and it’s possible to communicate telepathically with other people. I learned that it’s not a waste of time, that it’s actually very important, to pay attention to our dreams and believe in them.
Thinking back, when do you first recall becoming lucidly aware in the dream state? Can you remember any of your first lucid dreams (please describe some and the approximate age at which they happened)?
I was 22 years old and living on the rebellious edge in Chicago. I dreamed I was walking through a parking lot and stopped to buy ice cream from a vendor. There was nothing and no one else around, which was odd. I gave him some money and he handed me my change. “This is too much,” I protested but he said, “Keep it.” It dawned on me then that I was probably dreaming, because in real life no one gives you money, so I shrugged and slipped the $5 bill into the right pocket of my black jacket. I woke up and less than 20 minutes later, just after sunrise, I was leaning against the wall of some fast food restaurant, waiting for a friend to pick me up while staring despondently across a mostly empty parking lot. A kind looking black man paused beside me, asked me if I was hungry and offered to buy me some breakfast. He handed me his card; he was a social worker. I smiled and told him I was fine and he said, “Well, if you won’t join me for breakfast, buy yourself something to eat” and he slipped a bill into the right pocket of my jacket, the same jacket I had been wearing in the dream. When I pulled it out, I saw it was a $5 bill. I’ll never forget that morning. I truly felt I was given a clear message—dreams can and do come true, believe it. That dream was a lifeline which helped pull me out of a major depression, a lifeline that never broke because it was woven of awe and hope.
Was there anything about those first lucid dreams that you found interesting, exciting or perplexing? (pick your own adjective!) How did you manage to become lucid?
Invariably, all the lucid dreams I had before I read your book I called Flying Dreams because that’s the first thing I did when I became lucid, and the ability to fly was very often what triggered my lucidity. These dreams were intensely erotic even though all I did was fly. I would soar as high as I could, and then deliberately go into free fall. The exquisite intensity of the sexual arousal I experienced as I waited to make violent contact with the ground, with a building, with anything, is impossible to convey with words, and this from a woman who has written quite a few erotic romances! Upon becoming lucid, I experienced a rush of joy so intense I simply had to express it by taking off. I never felt perplexed, but during these early lucid dreams I barely scratched the surface of lucidity—I didn’t realize I could do anything besides feel fantastic and invulnerable. These dreams were also akin to sightseeing tours, because I would fly over whole towns and cities and landscapes and see them in such vivid detail it made me want to cry when I woke up that I couldn’t remember everything more clearly.
In some of your lucid dreams, you seem to have a strong kinesthetic feeling sense. You mention being touched in the lucid dream, and in some instances, feeling your body in the physical bed ( a possible sign that you may be getting close to waking up! ). What do you think about the sensation of touch in a lucid dream? Does it have an added dimension, since it occurs lucidly?
When you touch something, you know it’s real, not merely your imagination. Touch also seems to serve the purpose of “anchoring” me in the dream. I’ve heard the physical body described as a denser (slowed down) version of our subtle / astral / energy body (I think it’s detrimental to get bogged down by terminology.) When I sense my physical body lying in bed dreaming, I’m not at all surprised or worried about the fact that who I really am has the power to overflow physical boundaries. And both forms of my Self, both states of my Being, are mysteriously part of, and subordinate to, my awareness of them—to consciousness itself. Robert Lanza states in his book, Biocentrism: “No dead universe ever existed outside of Mind. ‘Nothingness’ is a meaningless concept…” I heartily agree, if by “Mind” he means the original Mind, i.e. God. And nowhere does this feel more true than in a lucid dream. I wrote in a poem: “We are all creators / in the Dreaming / not mere inmates / of a concrete prison.” When I become lucid in a dream, it feels like being set free of the cells of my physical body, pun intended. It seems to me the “landscape” of the dream is God-Consciousness Itself, which we share with everyone and everything, and that’s why time and space don’t really seem to exist and why we can interact with other souls, whether they are currently associated with physical bodies or not.
Many lucid dreamers have noticed that the freedom of lucid dreaming allows for some highly sensual encounters. Have you noticed this in your own lucid dreaming? (provide PG rated examples if you wish)
Yes, indeed I have, and I believe it helped open a door in my psyche to dreams of other lifetimes where a traumatic event of a sexual nature occurred that was coloring certain emotional / thought-patterns in my current personality. These dreams were extremely vivid, and they helped me understand certain of my sexual preferences and turn-offs much better. The visceral experience of each dream mysteriously unraveled a complex knot in my psyche that was at once psychological and energetic. Of course, in lucid dreams there are no physical self esteem issues to contend with—my dream body always feels beautiful, it’s not a mental thing—and the sense of touch, sensation itself and the excitement it generates is so intensified, it often wakes me up, which would be more frustrating if it wasn’t for the fact that very often the pleasure my dream body experiences flows seamlessly into my physical body, which smolders like a wick after a flame is blown out.
Do you think these sensual encounters are naturally more likely in lucid dreams – they just come with the (Freudian) territory? Or does lucid dreaming’s relative freedom provide a safer or possibly more empowering environment for expression?
Freud and all other psychological schools are completely irrelevant when I’m lucid in a dream; that stuff just falls away like the stages of an old Apollo rocket. My heightened sensuality and sense of absolute well-being are indistinguishable from each other. In a lucid dream I seem to reside in my energy or soul body, which naturally translates into sexual arousal, is merely a dim echo, I suspect, of what it will feel like when, at the moment of death, we slip out of our fleshly garment and are, so to speak, completely naked again.
In this issue of the LDE, you relate an interesting story about a pair of lucid dreams that helped you overcome your fear of death. How does lucid dreaming assist with that? And what did the symbolism by the seashore mean for you?
The night before my grandmother passed away, I dreamed we were standing together in a beautiful garden and that the jeweled lizard pin she was wearing over her heart (she actually collected them) suddenly turned into a butterfly and flew away. When I woke up, I called my mother and told her Abuela was going to die soon. Then, three days after her death, I dreamed I was sitting in a waiting room of sorts, reminiscent of an airport, and my grandmother was seated across from me. She said, in Spanish, “So I’m dead, aren’t I?” “Yes,” I told her, so happy to be seeing her again even if it was only in a dream. I also understood without thinking about it that I was there to help her. I got up, and when she leaned on my arm (as though she was still in her sick old body) I told her she didn’t have to do that, that she could walk straight and tall again. I remember looking down at our clasped hands and distinctly knowing that what was happening between us was real. I told myself I would remember looking at our hands in the dream and know it hadn’t been in a dream. In the end, a tall and attractive androgynous individual dressed in a white uniform walked into the building, golden hair curling around his/her smile. The messenger said loudly and cheerfully it was here to pick up the package. When I woke up I knew the “package” was my grandmother’s soul.
After my father’s funeral, I went to bed in the hotel room absolutely determined to dream with him, to become lucid in a dream and see him again. I found myself standing in a small town of sorts staring at the entrance to a theater, and at once I became lucid. I stared at that theater door, through which people were streaming out onto the street, thrilled by the possibility that my father might be one of them. I kept searching for his face in the crowd, and there he was! I ran over to him and we hugged but he looked a
little groggy and confused. He said in the tone of voice he had always used when he was worried about me, “You have to be careful here, Maria” and even as I looked up at his face I saw it had changed, that I was hugging a man with a similar build and complexion to my father but it wasn’t him anymore. Then all of a sudden he dropped dead at my feet as though shot through the heart. My father had been fond of detective novels and I thought, Oh please, this is too much! as my transcendent lucid dream suddenly seemed to be turning into a cheap thriller. But then I saw another man, a blond man in a dark suit, standing near the body and staring at me. I realized he was the one who had “shot” the impostor pretending to be my father, and he was smiling at me in a way that truly chilled me. I knew then I had to get away from there and I quickly flew up into the sky. I’ve dreamed with my father several times since then, and he even seems to have pointed the way to lucid dreaming for me as a spiritual path:
I’m with my father somewhere and he looks the way he did before he died. Suddenly, I see him standing outside a door, then he vanishes. Following him outside, I gaze across a narrow street and distinctly see a brick wall with an opening in it the size of a door, an opening I recognize as the entrance to a conscious dream. I cross the street and come very close to stepping through it but something holds me back. I don’t trust what I’ll encounter if I follow the path I can’t see from the threshold. I’m afraid the road will prove unpleasant or a dead end.
Such dreams have shown me that death is a part of life, not the end of it. The way I see it, sleep is so vital to our health because our souls are like whales or dolphins rising into the open, lighter space of dreams, and taking a deep breath of the energy which keeps our physical vessel charged and running properly before diving back into the womb of corporeal existence.
The symbolism by the seashore—white candles partially submerged in the ocean burning bright orange flames—expresses the ultimate paradox, how we are all one being/spirit and yet also unique individuals/souls.
In a previous lucid dream in LDE 59, you recount a lucid dream of seeking out a NYC friend you call ‘S’. In the lucid dream, there seems to be considerable symbolism of death (e.g., setting sun, deserted colorless building, etc.) and you later learn that S passes away soon after. But before you hear that news, you have a semi-lucid dream that mirrors the circumstance of her passing. What did you make of that? How did this help you deal with your friend’s passing?
I was reading my dream journal—trying to feel it was worthwhile to spend so much time and energy writing down all my dreams, lucid or not—when I came upon the dream you refer to which, at the time, made no sense to me at all. I was floored. I saw it clearly then for what it truly seemed to be—an astral message from my friend. So, yes, it’s definitely worth the effort to remember and to record your dreams, lucid or not. I feel so much better now, as though I was somehow actually with my friend when she “saw the light.” Her consciousness seemed to be hovering over her body, as in all NDE’s, and she wasn’t frightened; she was letting go of this life and it was okay. Perhaps she sent me that dream, or I telepathically “saw” what happened, but the fact is when I think about her death now I don’t just see the gruesome image of a body found by the police in a bath tub, instead I’m there with her and I feel okay, even good. Something has changed, and it’s all because of a dream. I feel so strongly that dreams and lucid dreaming are a vital part of human evolution. Science has to embrace mysticism so we can finally crawl out of the rock and the hard place of religious and scientific dogma, both of which are guilty of blind faith—it has to be like this and can’t be like that.
If you don’t dream something, either awake or asleep, it won’t happen. Magic is science we don’t understand yet. My faith doesn’t depend on it, but I would love to achieve a clearer communication with the Other Side, which is actually inside us.
You mention that when writing books, you occasionally get into the ‘zone’ or a place of inspiration. What is that like? And does it remind you of lucid dreaming?
In my dreams, a kiss seems to be a way of transmitting information and energy, as if they’re one and the same thing.
When I was deep in my fictional biography of Hatshepsut, I dreamed with a beautiful woman with a golden complexion who was wearing a long and light-colored sheathe dress such as an ancient Egyptian noblewoman might have worn. I was walking through a lovely town located high up in the clouds and it felt so nice there it alerted me to being conscious in a dream. As this woman approached me, I felt I knew her. She walked right up to me, her face level with mine, and pressed her mouth against mine for a long, wonderful moment. She told me I was doing very well but that I that I could do even better. She handed me a necklace, on which hung an irregularly shaped piece of silver in the center of which shone an amethyst (my birth stone) shaped like an eye. Her companion then took my hand and led me into a building on my left, at which point I began waking up.
As for the ‘zone’ I get into when I’m writing, it is very much like a lucid dream. When I sit down to write, a mysterious shift occurs in my consciousness and words flow out of me that are often as much a surprise to me as the images and events I encounter in dreams. I don’t work from an outline; I begin with the seed of an idea, and let it germinate inside me until I feel it’s time for it to begin branching out into sentences. The deeper into a book I get, the more the main characters assert themselves and say things I never actually thought of myself (at least not consciously) and soon I’m mainly following them around describing the action and how they feel about it. Things happen I don’t expect or foresee, surprising and exciting me, just as in lucid dreams. That’s what makes writing so entertaining and fulfilling, because it’s also, when it truly comes from the heart, a mysteriously profound learning process.
Do the seasons effect your dreaming, or effect your lucid dreaming? Do you see any pattern to lucid dreaming and the seasons?
I’ve noticed that I tend to have a lucid dream around the new moon and the full moon, and the dream I submitted for this issue occurred on Palm Sunday, in the Spring, which really makes me look forward to Christmas! And most memorably so far, exactly two months after my beloved dog, Merlin, passed away, on the full moon some time after midnight on Halloween (November 1st the Day of All Dead) I had this lucid dream:
I dreamed I woke up in bed, upon which the light of the full moon was shining. Then I saw Merlin. He was standing beside the bed looking up, the way he had in the last year of his life when he wanted to come up but felt he couldn’t manage the jump and was waiting for my help. I tried to ignore him because obviously he couldn’t really be there, but he was. He had been a mix of white and tan, with an adorable black mask around his eyes when he was a puppy, but now he was mostly a pure white. Yet he was clearly there, my little boy, so so I reached down and lifted him onto the bed with me, watching in awe as he walked over to his usual spot. I knew my beloved pet couldn’t possibly stay for long and a part of me was afraid to touch him, but of course I couldn’t resist. When I reached for him he rolled onto his back and I rubbed his belly just as I always had. I could truly feel him, the unmistakable shape and sensation of him. “You’re such a good boy!” I cooed as I stroked him. “And you always will be!” Part of me feared this visit in a space between waking and sleeping—for that’s where I knew I was—might only be an illusion sent by a demon that would bite me any second now if I kept petting it, but the rest of me felt otherwise; my heart knew better. I was so happy Merlin had come to see me! I continued caressing him, filled with wonder at how long he was staying. I dared to touch his head and to look straight into his eyes as I told him again and again what I had told him just before I left him in that terrible room at the vet—“I love you! I love you! I love you!” I was so close to him I could hear his breaths and they sounded like a dark, soft echo, “Love you… love you…” Content, I lay back against the pillows and woke gently. The room looked just as it had a moment ago, with moonlight shining full on my bed, the only difference being that Merlin was no longer there. From that day forward, I knew in my heart that he was all right and though I still missed him terribly, I was no longer so intensely sad.
Any final comments?
Lucid dreams are a truly effective means to, metaphorically speaking, cleanse the soul’s lens in a way that the intellect, and all our good intentions, cannot do as effectively, or as quickly, in waking life.
Thanks for being so gracious and telling us about your lucid dreaming life.