Although dreamwork as spiritual practice can certainly support personal growth and development, it would ultimately mean nothing if it did not go beyond my own individual, psychological motivations. I try hard not to get preoccupied exclusively with the self-awareness level of dreamwork (which is significant, but not enough), and to maintain openness to the larger awareness available through our dreams—an awareness that goes beyond the personal, and has relevance for the world as a whole.
Last week, I participated in the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), where hundreds of people from all over the world came together to talk about (and experience!) dreams from every possible perspective. For me, the most meaningful aspect of the conference was the way it reminded me of the larger potential of dreams and dreamwork.
In many profound, one-on-one conversations, I encountered again and again the wisdom and compassion of individual dreamers whose dreaming and waking experiences have led them to deep concern for the healing of the earth and the community of all life. In workshops, I was inspired by the collective nature of our dreaming, the concerns we share, and the responses that can arise from our interconnectedness. Through presentations of all kinds, I learned different approaches to dreamwork that include our responsibility to one another and our planet.
In his keynote address, Stephen Aizenstat spoke of “The Global Dream Initiative,” which “creates new and more generative ways of responding to the trauma of the world, ways that are not trapped in the cultural, political, economic, and environmental approaches that now are failing us.” Asserting that “the world’s suffering appears in the living images of dreams and…we can creatively respond,” Aizenstat “advocates that we go to the very depths of experience and engage the voices of the world’s dreams.”
This reminds me of Albert Einstein’s insight: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Dreams offer us another kind of “thinking”—another way of experiencing our problems—and responding—both individually and collectively. Such a response acknowledges that there are no private interests: our needs are inseparable from the needs of all beings and the earth itself. And our dreams reflect this interrelatedness on many levels: through expressions of suffering, calls to action, experiences of wholeness, creative openings, and direct motivations for cooperative change. Continue reading