Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Category: Reviews

Review: “Waking, Dreaming, Being”

waking dreaming beingWaking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy. by Evan Thompson. Hardcover 451 pages. Columbia University Press.

Working with dreams almost invariably leads to explorations of consciousness, identity and reality. Many of my articles (such as “Humbling Dreams,”  “When the Dream-Ego is Slippery or Sleepy,” and most recently, “Dreaming and Anatta: Non-Self”), demonstrate that these big themes are particular favorites of mine. I’m fascinated by questions about the nature of the self, waking and dreaming—but although I ponder these questions endlessly, my pondering tends to lose itself in the complexity of the subject (or else becomes poetic and misty, rather than concrete and complete).

Reading Evan Thompson’s remarkable book, “Waking, Dreaming, Being,” I find myself longing for an intelligence as sparklingly clear and lucid as his. In this book, he systematically investigates the intricacies of the very mind that is doing the investigating. With great care, and perhaps some tricks with mirrors, he examines every dancing dust mote in the shaft of sunlight that is consciousness itself. (See, I’m going for the poetry again…)

Although, as the book’s title suggests, Thompson uses straightforward language and addresses basic concepts here, I found that following the unfurling skeins of his reasoning gave my brain a good workout. It’s exhilarating to participate in such hard mental exercise, with the satisfaction of knowing it’s all about the process rather than the product: there are no easy answers to the big questions. Continue reading

Review: “Dream Explorations”

Dream Explorations: A Journey in Self-Knowledge and Self-Realization by Rachel G. Norment. Balboa Press. Paperback. 286 pages. $19.99.

Dream ExplorationsRachel Norment has ventured into the unknown lands of her own dreams, and has returned to share what she has learned. While many people record significant dreams, most have a limited capacity to articulate what these dreams have to do with life events and personal development. Perhaps some take the time to reflect on dreams, but few have made this a regular practice over many years, as Norment has done—noticing and investigating the patterns in dreams and their long-term relationship to waking life. By pursuing this kind of in-depth study, she has not only increased her own self-awareness, but has also grown and adapted her life through experiences and insights that will be relevant to the explorations of any dreamer. Her inner work, so generously shared, becomes a guidebook for those who wish to follow a similar path of self-discovery.

In Dream Explorations, selected dreams are grouped into categories according to common dream elements such as relationships, body and clothes, houses, food, bathrooms, color and music, water, babies and children, animals, travel, etc.—and Norment considers some general features of the dreams in each category. Using a Jungian model, she comes to her own understanding of the ways that these key images and themes in specific dreams were meaningful to her life circumstances at the time. Continue reading

Review: “Lucid Waking”

Lucid Waking: Using Dreamwork Principles to Transform Your Everyday Life by Zoé Newman. White Egret Press. Paperback. 260 pages. $17.95.

Lucid WakingHow would our lives be different if we approached waking situations with the same openness we might bring to our dreams?

When we are reflecting on our dreams, we don’t need to apply the same expectations and judgments, take sides, or assign blame—we tend to think more in terms of exploring and experiencing, trying out different points of view, considering possibilities, and finding meaning through metaphor and creativity. These dreamwork skills can be cultivated in waking life, too, so that our relationship to the world around us can become as flexible, playful, unexpected and intuitive as our relationship to the dream world.

In past posts [such as: Haiku Dreams, Green Sloths & Synchronicities, and A Bird-Watching Dream Walk] I have written about the waking/dreaming continuum, and have suggested some ways in which dreamwork approaches could be applied to our waking lives, but Zoé Newman has gone far more deeply into this work in Lucid Waking—a book that offers both the imaginative insights and the practical tools we need to relate more openly (less habitually) with our waking lives. She writes:

“Lucid waking is seeing situations as opportunities for experimenting, for trying out new behaviors, for cultivating undeveloped qualities. It’s being in life in a playful, risk-taking, adventurous, free way… letting the world become a classroom, a laboratory, a creative canvas.”

Reading this book makes it seem perfectly natural to learn from our waking experiences as we learn from our dreams. Using examples from the lives of real people facing real challenges, Newman explores creative ways of coping with unpleasant situations (such as getting a parking ticket), working through interpersonal conflict, and expanding opportunities for spiritual growth. She draws on some essential Buddhist wisdom about relating directly to our experience, which can be useful both in the practice of lucid dreaming and in “lucid waking”:

“Buddhist mindfulness is, in essence, a practice of bringing lucidity to our waking life. Developing mindfulness, as a matter of fact, is very similar to developing dream lucidity.”

In other words, when we become lucid in a dream, we “wake up” within the dream and become aware that we are dreaming, which opens up all kinds of new options for our responses to dream events. When we become mindful (or “lucid”) in waking life, we “wake up” to our immediate experience and become aware that this present moment offers far more possibilities than we had previously conceived. Either way, lucidity means that we are not limited by our habitual expectations and opinions, so we can relate to experiences as they unfold, with open eyes, heart and mind. Continue reading

Review: Dreams and Guided Imagery

Dreams and Guided Imagery: Gifts for Transforming Illness and Crisis by Tallulah Lyons. Balboa Press. Paperback. 269 pages. $18.99.

Tallulah Lyons BookI recently heard Tallulah Lyons speak about her work (and that of Wendy Pannier and her other colleagues) as “crafting a new language” that would help make dreamwork more accepted in the world of mainstream medicine. Such a language is essential because the exploration of dream imagery, in dream-sharing groups and individual meditative practices, can play a significant role in the healing process, particularly for cancer patients.

Yet, to gain credibility with the mainstream, the effectiveness of dreamwork needs to be supported by evidence (in the form of research statistics), placed in the context of established healing modalities, and described in a language that makes sense. Lyons is not only a gifted dreamwork facilitator, but also a writer, teacher, and guide who can articulate the value of this work, so others may appreciate it.

While dreamworkers and researchers are collaborating to provide clinical evidence that will substantiate the effectiveness of dreamwork, the work itself is already changing lives and bringing healing to many patients in a variety of clinical and private settings. Dreams and Guided Imagery beautifully conveys the significance of this work in the kind of language that would be accessible and inspiring to patients and clinicians alike. Lyons offers practical wisdom through approaches and insights that make sense. Continue reading

Review: “Art From Dreams”

[Regular blog posts now appear only on the first and third Tuesdays of each month–but I’ll be adding “extras” from time to time, including reviews like this one…]

artfromdreams_coverArt From Dreams: My Jungian Journey in Collage, Assemblage, and Poetry by Susan Levin. Levinarts. Paperback. 48 pages. $22.50.

When I was asked by Susan Levin’s publicist to review Art From Dreams, my first thought was to take a look at the sample images and the text description posted with the promotional materials, to be sure that this was work I could appreciate.

I am not a visual artist or art critic, and so my review is based on my personal taste and intuitive grasp of the artwork, and my experience with dreams and creative dreamwork. According to my personal taste, the mixed media collage/assemblages are appealing and intriguing. And because of my background in dreamwork and creativity, I am always interested in the relationship between dream imagery and artistic expression. The book, when I received it, was not a disappointment. Art From Dreams is beautifully made and invites lingering—with little text other than a brief introduction and foreword, followed by page after page of art pieces, some accompanied by corresponding poems.

Much of the artwork is reminiscent of Joseph Cornell: many pieces use found objects and/or collage; some pieces are framed within compartmented boxes of rough wood, some are free-standing or wall-mounted assemblages. Most of the materials appear aged, weathered, rusted, or worn. Darker colors predominate, with subtle shades of brown or gray providing the tone so the occasional lighter or brighter colors stand out sharply.

Dream ideas can be powerfully expressed through such forms, and the echo of these ideas in poetry can be hauntingly lovely. The poems are like lyrics to accompany dream music: sometimes telling a story, sometimes evoking only impressions. For the most part, Levin steers clear of sentimentality and sensationalism in both words and visual images. Although I liked some pieces better than others, I found the whole process of paging through this book to be dream-like in the best sense: aesthetically satisfying, and imaginatively engaging. Continue reading

© 2020 Compass Dreamwork

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑