Compass Dreamwork

Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Category: Group Dreamwork

Working with a dream-sharing group

Dream Labyrinth: The Winding Path of Group Dreamwork

Living-PathI’ve been exploring labyrinths lately, and finding significant parallels between the sacred labyrinth walk and the spiritual practice of dreamwork, especially group dreamwork.

While a maze is a puzzle or a trap, filled with false starts, wrong turns and dead ends—a labyrinth is a single winding path, opening at each step as we go around and around the circle, back and forth, spiraling inward and then outward again over and over, gradually working our way to the center. While the final exit from a maze is just an ending, the center of a labyrinth is a turning point. When we come to the center, we pause to center ourselves, and then turn and return the way we came, following our own footsteps back to the beginning.

Some dreams can seem like mazes—a mess of frustrations, disappointments, confusions and anxieties from which we are relieved to wake up. But when we begin to explore even the most tangled maze of a dream, we begin to find that its paths are labyrinthine: there’s a pattern (or many patterns) even though we are going around in circles; there’s always a way forward even though we are often turning back; there’s balance and symmetry even when we keep finding ourselves further from what we thought was our goal.

The reason I’m saying “we” is because the labyrinth of dreamwork is most evident when we are in it together—as a group. Several times, I’ve taken labyrinth walks with others—and it’s amazing (pun intended) how many different ways there are to walk this one path. Each person enters at the same place, but at a slightly different point in time. And then, as I proceed, I keep encountering the same people over and over, unpredictably—we may walk side by side for a while, or pass each other going opposite directions. We converge repeatedly, but never intercept each other, never cross paths. But we all find the same center, and we all return to the same place when we have completed our journey. Continue reading

What Actually Happens In A Dream Group?

dream circle 01

Dream images come to life among us…

Last week I played with the metaphor of a dream group being like a happy gathering of dogs in the off-leash zone (“Dream Groups and the Doggy Jamboree”). I took the metaphor and ran with it—like a dog with another dog’s squeaky toy—and maybe got a bit carried away. Of course, a dream group is not just a free-for-all romp. Among other things, it’s a mutual opportunity to share experiences. Often, in the process of this sharing, unexpected and indescribable events occur. Although I can’t describe the indescribable (I gave it a shot with the doggy jamboree metaphor), I can at least mention some of my own recent experiences with groups.

The groups I facilitate meet in a classroom, in the local Quaker meetinghouse. The room has lots of windows and a high ceiling—and although it is small, it feels spacious and light-filled most of the time. We move the big tables to one side, and sit in a circle of chairs near the windows (trying to arrange things so that no one gets the sun in their eyes).

At the beginning, we “check in” briefly. After several sessions of meeting together, we know each other, and we also begin to recognize images and themes that have a tendency to come up in each person’s dreams as well as in their waking lives. We’ve come to know some of the things we have in common, and some of our individual special qualities. We catch up with anything new that is arising, and sometimes find it’s arising not only for one person, but for several, or all, of us. Maybe it’s a time of feeling too busy; or a time of losses and letting go; or a time of reconnecting with old friends; or a time for a fresh start. A shared theme can emerge even when we are just giving the smallest glimpses of our daily lives.

Then, we go around the circle again, and each of us tells a brief dream. Like the check-in, there are common images and themes that come up, and already there’s a sense that a dreaming process is going on collectively as well as individually. For example, in one group, several people dreamed of babies—human or animal—being born; in another group, the color blue kept being mentioned. Continue reading

Dream Groups And The Doggy Jamboree

Earlier this week, I participated in two dream groups—one is a group that I facilitate, and the other is with fellow dreamworkers on-line. Both groups are now at the point where the true alchemy of dream-sharing begins to work among us, and a living dreaming process takes shape with a life of its own. These group experiences leave me feeling invigorated and open. After the second one (on-line), I emerge from my office for lunch, and notice that it’s a windy, sunny, beautiful late-autumn afternoon. So I decide to forget further work for the time being, and take a walk in the park. Walking is a good way to let the dream group’s energy and insights bubble and spark inside me, while the cool, fresh air stimulates my senses, and the rhythmic pace of forward momentum steadies my thoughts.

There’s an open, grassy, off-leash area in the park where the dogs come (with their human companions) to meet and play. I stand for a while, watching. The atmosphere tingles as each new dog arrives and the leash is unclipped. At first, even the big Bernese Mountain Dog is shy. She keeps close to her human, while he stands sipping coffee and chatting with the others. But almost immediately, more dogs bound up. They stop a short distance from the Mountain Dog, tails wagging tentatively, legs a bit stiff. There are perky gestures with heads and ears, gentle woofs, and soon a general sniffing and greeting and all the tails are wagging enthusiastically.

Then, one bright little terrier jumps to attention and shoots off like a rocket, and everybody explodes into motion. Dogs chase; dogs bound and roll in the grass; dogs tumble over each other and leap up barking. The humans whistle or call if things get out of hand, and occasionally throw a ball, but mostly they aren’t needed. The dogs are having fun, building and affirming relationships, learning from each other, and feeling the freedom of infinite possibilities.

Of course, because I’m thinking about dream group dynamics anyway, I make the connection: a good dream group can be like this doggy jamboree. The “humans” could be the participants’ conscious minds and waking identities: aware of the rules and roles, good-hearted and willing to go along. They want their “dogs”—their deeper, dreaming selves—to get some exercise and have a nice time. Continue reading

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