Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: mindfulness (Page 2 of 2)

What Am I?

handful of deep darkI recently returned from a five-day intensive entitled “Opening to Mystery.” It’s part of the two-year End-of-Life Practitioner program through Metta Institute, designed to teach mindfulness to hospice and palliative care practitioners (nurses, doctors, aides, administrators, chaplains, social workers, volunteers).  Although the perspective is primarily Buddhist, the approaches we are learning are intrinsic to the contemplative branch of every spiritual tradition. I’ll be writing more about how dreams relate to death and to “Mystery” over the next few months (as part of my final project for the program). At the moment, I’m thinking specifically about how death and dreams open up questions of identity: who or what are we?

In my work as a hospice volunteer and chaplain, I’ve been present during the last weeks with many hundreds of dying people and their families. I’ve seen how familiar points of reference are gradually (or sometimes suddenly) stripped away—both for the person who is ill and for his or her loved ones. I experienced the intensity of this process first-hand in my thirties, during my own life-threatening, life-changing illness (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). Over the course of several years, I lost much of my “self,” as I could no longer work a job, participate in social activities, or even think clearly, eat or sleep normally, or take care of my own daily maintenance. Yet I was still conscious, still present, still aware in each moment. Paradoxically, for me and most others, this process of “un-selfing” is a source of both anguish and liberation. Continue reading

A Bird-Watching Dream Walk

Dreamwork includes practice in looking at waking life as if it were a dream—where the ordinary may become extraordinary, experiences have multiple layers of metaphorical meaning, and anything is possible. This is a useful spiritual practice, because, really, the world we see when we look at things with the freshness of a dream-perspective is more “true to life”—and certainly more interesting—than the habitual, predictable world we think we inhabit as we go about our business in the usual way.

Here’s a creative approach (particularly recommended by Robert Moss) to getting in touch with the dream-like nature of waking life, and the responsive relationship between ourselves and our world. Suppose you have a problem or concern, or you just want to better understand your current situation: Formulate a question, and just as you might hold this question in mind before sleep and hope to dream some kind of answer, you can treat your day (or a part of your day) as if it were a dream. Pay attention to what happens, and trust that information pertinent to your question will emerge. Any unusual event, or pattern of events, will contain a message. Continue reading

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