Book Review – Mindful Dreaming: Harness the Power of Lucid Dreaming for Happiness, Health, and Positive Change by Clare R. Johnson, Ph. D.

March, 2019

Book Review
Mindful Dreaming
Harness the Power of Lucid Dreaming for Happiness, Health, and Positive Change
by Clare R. Johnson, Ph. D.

I love dreaming! It is one of my favorite things to do! I have been tracking and working with my dreams for years. But sadly, I have not had much luck with lucid dreaming, even though I’ve read many books on the topic and practiced lots of different techniques.

Author Dr. Clare Johnson is the first person to write a doctoral thesis on the topic of lucid dreaming as a creative tool. She’s been a lucid dreamer since the age of 3 and is currently the president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. So, she brings a real gravitas to the topic of working with your dreams. Her book offers a different take on the practice of lucid dreaming in Mindful Dreaming. She approaches “wakefulness” from the vantage point of “mindfulness,” bringing your attention to what is happening in the present moment. We bring our attention to the present moment, not only while awake, but during the one-third of our lives that we spend dreaming. The goal of mindful dreaming, as she explains, is to become awake to our unconscious patterns, modify them and heal our lives. “When we learn to be more present in our waking life, we are more likely to discover how our thoughts can shape our reality,” says Dr. Johnson. All this from dreaming, and not years of therapy?? Yes.

The key? Working with your dreams while you’re awake! For a lucid-dreamer wannabe like me, to know that I can go beyond recording my dreams and actually work with them and “change the movie” is exciting. Dreams are not just random firing of brain synapses. Rather, they are the doorway into our vast personal and collective unconscious. Learning to understand their dense symbolic language and decode their metaphors helps us to release powerful emotions, fears and memories stored at the cellular level. When we unravel unexpected associations that dreams make, we enhance our creativity. If we pay attention to their messages, we are shown where illness might develop. And we experience life-changing contact with the numinous when we become aware of our “soul dreams.”

Dr. Johnson takes us through the basics of working with our dreams: sleep hygiene, dream incubation, dream recollection and journaling. These are the first few of 50 dream practices and Lucid Dreamplay suggestions present in each chapter. The beauty of the Lucid Dreamplay practices is that many of them are done while you are awake! You can change your “inner movie,” write, sketch or dialogue your way into an understanding of a key dream image and tell a dream to a friend in order to excavate its many layers. The unconscious mind begins to build a blueprint for the possibility of change in waking life and the direction that change can take. Your unconscious will also begin to build new blueprints when you consciously make changes in your dreams. The book contains many examples of how these practices work for different dreams and dreamers. The techniques are valuable because working with dreams while awake can mirror the experience of lucid dreaming and have the same powerful results, as Dr. Johnson points out. She also outlines a nine step program for becoming lucid in dreams.

In addition to the useful and well-described techniques, Dr. Johnson devotes individual chapters to understanding and working with different types of dreams including nightmares; dreams of grief, loss and death; sexual dreams; dreams of illness and pain; and soul dreams or what I call “Big Dreams.” The book concludes with a chapter on creating your own best life by working mindfully with dreams while awake and asleep: “Dreamwork is a little like magic because it allows us to dissolve the veil the covers our own hidden, unconscious world. Once the veil is gone, we can clearly see the state of our life; what it lacks and what it needs to be healthier and happier.” Working with the Dreamplay practices will take you deep and keep you busy, but just in case you want to go beyond Mindful Dreaming, there is a Resource section. I am going to continue to use this book to get to dream lucidity!

Mindful Dreaming: Harness the Power of Lucid Dreaming for Happiness, Health, and Positive Change on Amazon


About the Author:

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner and Teacher of Shamanism. She is a long-time explorer of The Mysteries – the connections between mind, body, spirit and how to live in right relationship to all of the energies streaming through the cosmos. She works with clients as an astrologer, coach, ceremonialist and guide to the wisdom that each of us has the capacity to access. Her focus is on guiding clients to unblock and rediscover their inner wisdom. , exploration of the birth chart, ceremony, legacy writing, hypnotherapy, energetic healing practice and creation of sacred tools are integral pieces of her practice.

Susan trained in Soul Level Astrology with master astrologer Mark Borax. She delights in exploring with individuals the planetary pattern under which their soul choose to incarnate.

Flying to the Heart

Open Channel Astrology:

Book Review – Shaman Express by Beretta Rousseau

February, 2019

Book Review
Shaman Express
by Beretta Rousseau

Short review: I hated this book.

Let me say right off the bat that I am the wrong person to be reviewing this book. I am going to be fifty-nine this year; I am a die-hard radical feminist; I have been in recovery for almost thirty years now; I read the entire canon of Carlos Castanedas over forty years ago; I grew out of this kind of “using drugs to find spiritual enlightenment” bullshit before the age of THIRTY.

To be honest, I might have liked this book – a whole lot – when I was twenty-one or so – but that was many, many years ago. In my twenties, I had a great attraction for erotic literature and any book with lots of sex in it, whether or not it was necessary to the plot. This book is one of those books.

I was ready to throw it into the garbage after I read the first sentence. “I woke up sweating, alarmed, and with a painful erection.” So fucking what? Waking up with an erection is perfectly normal. This author acts like it’s some kind of accomplishment. I’m sorry but I don’t want to read this shit. I really don’t.

On page 10: “It took me some time to realize that the twelve-step program I had entered was a spiritual program.” Gee … how fucked up were you? Because all twelve-step programs tell you that right off the bat. But of course, they also tell us that some of us are more damaged that others. This author is obviously very damaged.

The thing is, “Beretta Rousseau” is actually two people – Omar Beretta and Bénédicte Rousseau – evidently a man and a woman – and they trade off chapters in the novel like John Lennon and Yoko Ono trading off songs on “Double Fantasy”. It makes for a very uneven novel (just like “Double Fantasy”). Rousseau is the better writer, in my humble opinion. I googled them separately and Omar Beretta is a travel writer – he looks to be maybe ten years or so younger than me but of course, looks are deceiving – and Bénédicte Rousseau is a Belgium writer born in 1980 – incidentally the year I first took LSD (I was twenty). I couldn’t find very much about Omar Beretta – or the correct Omar Beretta because it’s apparently a very common name and there were lots of them to choose from, from investment bankers to Uranium entrepreneurs to Argentine tax lawyers – but with a little work, I did find an interview with Berretta which is here: According to that article, you can access Berretta’s website here: It is in Spanish but can be translated easily into English. Rousseau has a website that you can visit here: Rousseau is Belgium but her site is in English.

This book is labeled “A Novel” but I am not sure that it is. It really reads more like creative nonfiction – especially with all the quotes and the footnotes – but of course, that’s the trendy cool way to write novels nowadays – check out The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – but Diaz’s book is obviously a novel whereas Shaman Express is a novel only because it bends the barrier between fiction and non-fiction. In a way, it doesn’t matter at all if it’s a novel or not. It’s the story that counts – whether or not it’s factually true is beside the point.

I guess I just didn’t care about the story.

So what is the story? That’s a really good question.

Part One is called “Alive”. Part Two is called “Dead”. Part Three is called “Awake”.

All three parts are written as diary entries. Each chapter is an entry – one written by Berretta and the next one by Rousseau. I found myself having to read chapters over and over again, since none of it made very much sense. It seemed that both Berretta and Rousseau were interested in “shamanism” and in finding evidence of European shamanism. Why they don’t do this in a scholarly fashion is beyond me. There are all kinds of scholarship on this very subject. I myself have been studying European shamanism – not that I called it that – since the mid-1980’s. But I guess if they spent their time in libraries, we wouldn’t have a novel to read, wouldn’t we. The trouble is – if you’re looking for “action” – there really isn’t any “there” there. Or – it’s there – but it’s all busyness with no real substance.

The “action” goes from Amsterdam to Brussels to Belsedere to Ulan-Ude back to Brussels and then to Lake Baikal and then to Bangkok – but during all this movement, there is so much hallucination and “guided meditation” that you wonder if any of this travel is actually happening at all or if Berretta and Rousseau are really talking to any of the people they are talking to or even to one another. It’s almost like they were sending emails to one another and the chapters don’t quite match up. On the other hand, the whole novel made me think of those story-games we played as children – one person starts the story and another person adds to it and it gets crazier and crazier with the telling. A version of this is in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, in the chapter “Camp Lawrence”. Since Berretta is a travel writer, this is eminently possible. He seems to be the one who is always on the move and Rousseau is always having to meet him at this or that place.

In one of the guided meditations, Rousseau meets her “spirit guide” who apparently is the god Apollo. She writes,

“…My spirit guide strokes my hair tenderly. I find comfort in this heavenly touch.

‘Your situation is simple, Benedetta. You must choose between life and death. You must hurry though…’

…This seems unreal to me. I am speechless. I am not even sure I am having this conversation.” (page 70)

So she chooses life. Well, of course she does. But that’s the end of the first part and like I said earlier, the section part is called “Death”. And believe me, it’s a small death just to get through it.

The end of the third part ends with: “Awake. Really?” and then, “One day at a time can lead to a glimpse of eternity.” (page 214) Which is probably the wisest statement in this entire book.

Again – I don’t want to diss this book entirely – some of you are going to read this and absolutely love it. I just didn’t.

One of the links on Rousseau’s website is entitled “Top Five Tips for Writing in a Literary Collaboration”. I highly recommend this for any writer, whether or not you write with other people – and let’s face it, most of us do collaborate with other writers, whether we are aware of it or not – and I liked #2, “Practice conversation”. If you read this book as a conversation between two people, it’s Rousseau’s voice that is the more engaging. I found myself rushing through Berretta’s chapters, just wanting to get them over with – they were oversexed and over-violent – so I could relax with the more soothing and reasonable voice of Rousseau. I was also wishing that there were a few more voices in this conversation. Maybe the teacher’s? Or a few other students?

The other thing I thought while reading this “novel” was that it was really a screenplay and the authors didn’t realize it. Perhaps it’s been optioned and we’ll all be watching the movie on Netflix at this time next year. I do think it will work better as a movie.

That said, I know there are plenty of people who will absolutely love this book. I am just not one of them.


Berretta Rousseau. Shaman Express. WA: Amazon Digital Services, LLC, 2018.

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. NY: Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, 1947.

Shaman Express on Amazon


About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Tarot Deck & Journal Review – The Fountain Tarot Deck

January, 2019

Tarot Deck & Journal Review

The Fountain Tarot Deck

The Fountain Tarot is created by Jonathan Saiz, visual artist, written by Jason Gruhl, writer, and designed by Andi Todaro, graphic designer. The deck was originally self-published in 2013 via a Kickstarter project and is currently published by Roost , an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., 4720 Walnut Street, Boulder CO 80301.

The deck itself consists of 79 cards, the typical 56 Minor Arcana cards and 22 Major Arcana cards, along with a bonus 23rd Major. The 23rd Major Arcana card is named “The Fountain,” the signature card of the deck, and assigned the values of infinity, oneness, and being fully awake. The deck is printed on sturdy cardstock (similar to the Wild Unknown Tarot), with a matte finish, almost powdery to the touch. The stock is sturdy enough to make a “bridge” or “riffle” shuffle a bit challenging, but the cards are otherwise easy to handle and nicely-substantial to the hand. The cards are 2¾ by 4¾ inches with a narrow white border around the images and a startlingly reflective silver guild on the edges of the cards. The titles of the Minors are at the bottom of the card image and at the top for the Majors, both in an easy-to-read font.

The deck comes in a very sturdy and practical hard cardboard glossy box designed by Andi Todaro that has a magnetic closure and a ribbon that allows the deck to be lifted from the box, rather than dumped out. There is plenty of room in the high-quality box to securely store the deck and the companion book that comes with it.

The softcover companion book has 112 pages. After a brief note from the creators of the deck, there is a suggested daily practice, a description of The Fountain card, the Major and Minor Arcana, the suits of the Minors, a few suggested spreads, and a sample reading and interpretation. The rest of the book is devoted to the individual cards themselves, with a page for each card containing the name and number of the card, a keyword, a brief description of the card image and the symbolism and artistic choices made in the creation of the image, and an upright and reversed meaning.

The images are modern and somewhat minimalist, with a subdued palette and geometric lines and angles. The art has an abstract or contemporary feel similar to the slight distortions of expressionism and combined with the non-traditional images, could be challenging to those who are more confident working with the traditional images of the Tarot. However, the artwork is not simple or shallow by any means. Each card image originated as an original full-size oil painting by artist Jonathan Saiz, giving each card image depth, power and intensity. The back of the cards, designed by Andi Todaro, have a beautiful geometric kaleidoscope design containing the palette of the deck and easily reversed (for those who read reversals).

If you are an intuitive reader, this deck might interest you. Normally I would not recommend a deck with non-traditional card images for beginners. Yes, the images do deviate somewhat from the traditional R/W deck in part because of their fluid abstract interpretations of the more traditional Tarot symbolism, however these ethereal and dream-like images are strongly grounded within the known and established traditional meanings found in the companion book, so the images make sense even to someone who has just begun to work with the Tarot. The setup of the companion book is well-balanced, with equal consideration given to the Minor Arcana as to the Major Arcana (unlike many companion books, which often offer more information and suggested interpretations for the Majors).

The Fountain Tarot Journal

Also available as a companion to The Fountain Tarot is The Fountain Tarot Journal: A Year In 52 Readings, also published by Roost . The Journal has a matte finish color soft cover and 160 pages; it begins with a Note From the Creators followed with some useful information including How to Use This Book, Tarot Basics, Sample Spreads, among others. The rest of the 130 pages are for journaling, beginning with instructions for choosing a Card of the Year, space for a 3-card, 5-card and 10-card reading, and then space for the 52 readings (with 2 pages for each reading), including Quarterly Cards and summaries, and ending with a Year-End Summary and Reflection. Each reading section has space for the date and time, the question asked, traits and meanings, initial reaction, connections/relationships between the cards, patterns and themes, a summary of what the cards represent, personal reflections, action to be taken, and people to enlist. Although presented as a companion to The Fountain Tarot, this Journal could be used with any Tarot deck, and it offers a useful tool and process for nurturing a deep connection to the cards of Tarot.

The Fountain Tarot: Illustrated Deck and Guidebook on Amazon

The Fountain Tarot Journal: A Year in 52 Readings on Amazon


About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot Reader and Teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog,, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journal to Understanding on Amazon