Kirsten Backstrom, founder and director of Compass Dreamwork, is certified as a Dream Work Facilitator through the Marin Institute for Projective Dream Work (MIPD, Jeremy Taylor). She is a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), and has been a student of dreams (her own and others’) for over thirty years. She is also an interfaith spiritual director, a writer, and a teacher and facilitator of workshops, groups and classes. She has a background in pastoral services and hospice chaplaincy, eldercare and bereavement care, both professionally and as a volunteer. She is an active member of her Quaker community (Multnomah Friends Meeting in Portland, Oregon), where her ministry to work with “threshold experiences” (including dreams, but also illness, grief, change, aging, and dying) is acknowledged and supported.
Kirsten has an extensive background in the study of religions and cultures, and in the dreaming practices associated with diverse spiritual traditions. Her approach to dreamwork has been particularly influenced by her exploration of the precepts and practices of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Through a personal experience of cancer and the long-term, life-changing health challenges that came with it, Kirsten’s dreams were a true compass. The big questions of life and death that dreams raise have always intrigued her: Who are we? What happens when we die? What is our place in this multi-faceted world? What interconnectedness lies beyond our apparent separateness? What gives our lives meaning? These are foundational questions underlying much her dreamwork.
Perhaps a person’s dreaming makes a better biography than her life story, since dreams are being rather than doing. So, here’s a dream.
Dream of the Hourglass: I am with a small group being led through a big, rambling house as part of a spiritual journey of awakening. We’re told that everything we encounter from here on will be meaningful. At first, the experience seems ordinary or even boring, like being toured through a dull museum. But then I realize I’m holding something in my hands: two clear glass globes (one in each hand) connected by a thin hollow stem—an hourglass. I recall that I had a dream of an hourglass recently, and realize that this must be a dream as well. I examine the hourglass closely. It contains both water and tiny sand grains that are clear, cube-shaped crystals, like coarse salt. Instead of turning it vertically, I continue to hold it horizontally. The globes come apart and become bubbles that float out of my hands. The bubbles burst and spill a glittering rain/snow of water droplets and crystals. Each crystal grows to become another bubble, and these, too, burst and sprinkle more crystals that are the seeds for new bubbles, and so on. I consider the significance of an hourglass and its relationship to time, and think about bubbles and their association with transience, and decide that this dream is telling me something about eternity. I am surrounded by shimmering, hovering, glorious bubbles. I am a shimmering bubble myself, preparing to burst into new forms.
Just the Facts
- Certification in Dream Work (Marin Institute for Projective Dream Work, California)
- Member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams
- M.A. in Applied Theology (Marylhurst University, Oregon)
- B.A. in Human Ecology (College of the Atlantic, Maine)
- Ministry in “threshold work” under the care of Multnomah Friends Meeting (Oregon)
- Certification in Pastoral Care and Counseling (Marylhurst University, Oregon)
- Member of Spiritual Directors International