Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: nature in dreams

Shamanic Dream Perspectives

oak tree 01Much of what I write and teach about dreams starts from a psycho-spiritual frame of reference, integrating some basic ideas about dreamwork from C.G. Jung, Jeremy Taylor, and others. This approach assumes a wide range of creative and healing potential in the dreaming process, and uses archetypal metaphors and imagery (recognizable also in mythology and religion) along with personal, cultural, and contextual associations with those images.

But there are other—equally valid—ways of approaching dreams. The shamanic tradition has an entirely different perspective on the meaning of dreaming, and this is a perspective that I also bring to my work. (Incidentally, Taylor often includes this perspective in his work as well—as did Jung, in his own way.)

To bring this perspective to our conversation about dreams, I’ll be writing a series of posts about how I experience and try to apply the wisdom of shamanism in dreamwork. Today, I’d like to introduce the shamanic worldview—and I’d appreciate anything that those of you who are more experienced shamanic practitioners might want to add. Shamanism is a vast subject, with variations, and sometimes contradictions, between cultural traditions and the methodologies of individual practitioners. But I’ll try to mention a few of the essentials that define shamanism as a whole.

Shamanism was and is a primary spiritual and practical system of knowledge and skills in most, if not all, indigenous cultures worldwide. Thanks to the efforts of shamans, elders, and wisdom-keepers from these cultures, shamanic perspectives, along with some shamanic skills and practices, are becoming increasingly integrated into many areas of contemporary spirituality—making contributions not only to the spiritual development and healing of individuals and communities, but also to the ecological balance of all life. Continue reading

Seasonal Dreaming

columbine 01Do your dreams reflect the seasons? I’ve talked about some concepts shared by haiku and dreams in the last couple of posts [“Haiku Dreams,” and “Nature Dreams”], and one more of these shared concepts is the way that references to a specific season somehow increase the sense  of universality and timelessness in both haiku and dreams.

In haiku, the season is always included, either directly or indirectly—and this provides orientation in the natural world, as well as setting a tone and implying certain common associations understood between writer and reader. Is something similar going on in dreams?

Of course, not all dreams include seasonal references. Last night, for example, my dream fragments all seemed to be set indoors, and I can’t remember anything that would suggest what time of year it might have been. But when there are outdoor settings and a more continuous flow of dreaming, I can usually get at least some impression of a season. More often than not, it’s the same season that is currently happening around me in the waking world—but fairly frequently, there are interesting seasonal shifts or variations.

In early May, in Portland Oregon where I live, dogwoods and lilacs were in bloom, but my dream took place in New England (where I grew up) and reflected the season there at the tail end of winter:

I’m visiting my mother and look out the window to see that the trees are still bare and there’s still a lot of snow on the ground. I want to take a walk, but don’t know if I have my boots, or warm clothes with me. As I watch, it begins to rain, making the snow soggy. I open the door and take a deep breath of the fragrance of mud and melting snow—which evokes a strong sense of childhood springtime. I remember the relief of spring coming after a long, long winter.

This dream brought up associations with the grudging first glimpses of spring in my childhood—a time when I would dig down through the old snow in April just to see and touch some matted green grass. When spring finally did come, it came slowly, with many setbacks, and by the time the season hit its stride, summer was ready to take over. Continue reading

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