What might walking backwards through the Australian rainforest have to do with a mystery romance novel set in the Cotswolds? It was all part of my “unconscious research”. And it was a long research journey too, I admit. If you’re intrigued, go to Martin Willoughby’s blog to read my guest post on how “Dream Yoga” played a role in the creation of the story of “Mystical Circles”.
What is dream yoga? Does it really exist? The answer is yes. It is one of the practices of Craig’s group The Wheel of Love, which I describe in my novel. I have investigated dream yoga myself in the past. It originates in Tibet, and through it one aims to achieve wholeness and self-knowledge by mastering the art of “lucid dreaming”.
EXTRACT FROM “MYSTICAL CIRCLES”
When the group gathered around Craig at the back door at six a.m., Juliet was encouraged by the brightness and freshness of the sky. A steady heat, enlivened by a crisp breeze, ensured that most walkers had chosen T-shirts and shorts this morning.
Craig, in bushwalking khakis, swept his arm out over to the north west, where a fence separated the car park from a thick stand of horse chestnuts and field maples. “That’s where we’re going today.”
Juliet spotted a footpath accessed by a stile. Beyond the trees, the side of the valley rose steeply through pasture to a wooded ridge. Her concentration returned to Craig, who was now telling the group that the first part of the walk was to be conducted in silence.
So that meant she wouldn’t get the chance to quiz Zoe further on what she really felt about last night.
Craig led his followers along a track that disappeared among the trees. Zoe walked way ahead of Juliet, who couldn’t see whether or not her sister was sticking close to Craig. Beth, she noticed, seemed to be missing, though Oleg was present. Everything about him suggested depression, even his tired-looking floppy beige hat. So much for the effect of last night’s Dynamic Meditation.
They tramped for several minutes, sometimes through dense undergrowth that contained a lot of bramble, and eventually emerged on the top of the ridge. A glorious panorama of hills and fields spread out before them. But Craig didn’t allow them long to admire it. He instructed them to gather round.
“This is where it gets interesting,” murmured Zoe to Juliet, before Juliet moved forward to put her mike in front of Craig’s mouth.
“Now, in a moment I’ll ask you to start walking again,” said Craig. “But this time I want you to walk backwards. Don’t turn round. Just trust me. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
Juliet shot him a look. He seemed serious. And they were all obeying. She had no option other than to join them, sticking close to Craig so she could be ready with the mike for his next utterance.
After about ten minutes of this, Craig’s voice rang out again. “That’s it, everyone. Stop. Who found it difficult to trust me? Who struggled with an urge to look behind, to check they weren’t going to crash into anything, or fall over a sheer drop? Laura? Sam? Zoe? As I expected. And who thought it was extremely silly? Juliet? Good. You’re here to unlearn everything you’ve been taught to believe about the world and how to behave in it, from the moment you were born.”
Juliet caught sight of Oleg. He was in deep gloom.
She stepped aside with her mike. “You don’t look enthralled, Oleg,” she said. But before he could reply, Craig’s voice cut in again and she swung round once more.
“See that beech tree? Look at the very topmost branch. Concentrate on those leaves. Next, imagine a spot in the centre of your forehead. Visualise a silver cord extending from it, reaching out, further and further, and finally connecting you to the leaves at the top of the tree. Keep your eyes on them. Now walk very slowly toward it, never letting your eyes drop.”
Juliet joined them, unable to notice the reactions of the people around her until they’d completed the exercise. Then Craig seated himself on a fallen trunk, and asked how they’d felt when asked to do it, and during the walk; and whether those feelings had changed now they’d stopped. Juliet could detect no sign of dissent among them, apart from Oleg, who continued to look miserable. He seemed to be weighed down by some heavy problem; she resolved to get him to open up about it as soon as she had the chance.
Craig sprang from the fallen log. “I want you to do this every day. As you walk around, think: This is a dream. Whatever you’re doing, say to yourself: I’m dreaming this. Any questions?”
Juliet looked around, mike at the ready. Silence. Surely, someone other than herself must have doubts? But nobody expressed any. Were she and Don the only people in this community who still saw things from the perspective of the outside world?
“This,” said Craig, “is part of my strategy to teach you all the art of lucid dreaming. Remember, if you master this art – the art of knowing you’re in the middle of a dream, and then taking command of the dream at that point – I tell you, if you master this art, death will be a breeze.”
Not one of his followers spoke, or moved. A dreamlike quality had settled upon them all.
Craig spoke again. “If you follow what I’ve taught you this morning, lucid dreaming will become second nature.”