Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Tag: openings and openness (Page 3 of 5)

Dreaming of Homelessness, Part Two: Personal Associations

homeless 02I’ve been looking at one of my recent dreams from different angles, and writing about that process here, exploring the theme of homelessness. In the last post, I considered this dream as a literal description of the suffering involved when a homeless man must be separated from his beloved dog. Now, I’d like to take another approach, and try to understand the dream story in relation to my own life.

In the dream, a cold and ill homeless friend comes to our door, and we offer him food and shelter for the night. He is no longer capable of caring for his little papillon dog, and we must find a new home for her in spite of his unwillingness to lose her. The dream left me with many painful ethical questions about homelessness, autonomy, and responsibility, and I considered some of those questions in the last post [see “Dreaming of Homelessness, Part One”].

But the dream was especially poignant for me not only because it brought up literal concerns about other people who are homeless, but also because it evoked my own relationship to home, personal losses, and helplessness. Situations from the dream directly reflect the fact that I was far from home when I dreamed it (at the IASD conference in the Netherlands), and had just completed a difficult two-month pilgrimage, walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago.

During that journey I came to appreciate the intensity of the challenges that homeless people must face. At times, the relentless days and restless nights brought me to my physical and emotional limits, and exhausted my inner resources so that I felt profoundly vulnerable. When I finally came to the end of the long walk, I still felt dislocated and unclear about what I had learned, and so I dreamed of homelessness and helplessness represented by a dream figure with whom I could empathize. The painfully unresolved nature of the dream reflected many of my own unresolved feelings about my pilgrimage, and about other experiences from my past.

For me, “home” is a safe place—within myself and outside myself—where I can truly rest. It is a place where I am recognized and understood, a place where I trust my sense of self and my relationships with others. It is a place that offers physical and emotional security, and a certain amount of predictability. Archimedes said that with a long enough lever, he could move the earth—if only he had a place to stand. For me, home is a place to stand—and when I have that place to stand, I can live with strength, wisdom, kindness and courage. Without a home, I don’t know who I am or what I can do.

Actually, however, this definition of home sounds skewed. It’s certainly possible to feel insecure even in the happiest home. And how important is security anyway? What does it mean to be understood or safe?—I barely understand myself (thank goodness there’s more to me than I can rationally understand), and “safety” is conditional when we’re all mortal. Besides, needing to be understood and safe creates limitation rather than a true home. The kind of home that supports strength, wisdom, kindness, and courage actually arises more from shared acceptance of uncertainty than from having a solid place to stand.

Nevertheless, although I acknowledge the importance of vulnerability and openness, of having a home that’s more like a good pair of shoes than like a castle… well, this is my “growing edge,” which sometimes feels like the crumbling edge of a precipitous cliff. I’m not yet comfortable standing there!

“Home” is a big deal in my life. In my late teens, my family fell apart and I was homeless (in a way) for some time—never to the point of living on the streets, but dependent upon friends and strangers for temporary places to stay. I had few possessions (without a home, you can’t keep much), unstable health, little control over my circumstances, no luck getting work, constant uncertainty about finding food and shelter from one week to the next, and plenty of shame because others had to help me. So, even forty years later, it makes sense that when I undertook an extended pilgrimage in a foreign land my fears of homelessness surfaced right away—in my dreams and in my waking life. Continue reading

Dreaming of Homelessness, Part One: A Literal Perspective

OpeningWalking the Camino de Santiago over the course of two months, I found that an extended pilgrimage is nothing like a vacation. I couldn’t treat that long journey as an adventure separate from my regular life: it was my life. And it was a way of living that required versatile survival skills and relentless stamina.

Each day had to be lived on its own terms. Some days were filled with blessings, and many days, blessed or not, were terribly difficult. The difficult days gave me a tiny glimpse of what homelessness might feel like. Food, water, shelter, health, safety, communication, hygiene—the basics could never be taken for granted. Meeting my own essential needs was a constant energy drain, sometimes demanding more strength than I had.

Even on a well-traveled path, surrounded by good people, with many inner and outer resources available to me, I felt intense vulnerability, physical pain and fatigue, loneliness, and homesickness at times—especially when I was ill, or coping with rain or heat, or when I couldn’t make myself understood, or couldn’t be sure of my next meal, or bed, or shower, or toilet. I chose this path for myself on purpose, with the explicit intention of learning to adapt to whatever experiences I encountered, so it is overwhelming to imagine how much harder true homelessness would be: unchosen, with far fewer resources, and without a safety net of any kind.

Shortly after completing my long walk, while I was still far from home (at the international dream conference in the Netherlands), I had a dream that raised questions about homelessness, and what home really means. It was an important dream for me to have, and perhaps could be meaningful to others as well. So, in the next few blog posts, I’m going to explore this dream from three different angles: the literal, the personal, and the communal or universal.

Just about any dream or life issue can be seen literally, personally, or universally. First, we experience everything just as it happens, and respond to it immediately, with emotions, questions, concerns and insights about the situation as it appears to us. Then, we might take it to the next level, and see how it fits with other dreams or events in our lives, what patterns, paradoxes and metaphors are evident, and what it teaches us about ourselves. Finally, it can be meaningful to try to understand how these things apply not only to ourselves but to others, to communities and systems, to our natural environment, to our collective past, present and future.

Let’s look at the dream literally first…

The Homeless Man Will Lose His Papillon: My partner and I have befriended a homeless man who has a little dog—a female papillon named “Pierrot.” The man comes to our door on a cold, rainy night. He is chilled, soaked, and sick; he needs our help. We offer him a hot bath, dry clothes, soup, and a sleeping bag on the couch. We feed and tend his dog.

While he sleeps, we talk about his situation. He is unable to keep himself or Pierrot safe any longer. They are both going to die unless something is done. We call someone we know who works in social services. His wife (a kind, motherly person) is willing to adopt the dog. This is the only solution, but it means separating the homeless man from his beloved companion permanently. When he wakes up, he angrily refuses to discuss this, and leaves—but soon returns, because he is too sick to survive out there. He seems to agree, reluctantly, to give up Pierrot, though for now he will barely look at us and returns to the sleeping bag to rest.

Although I’m ashamed to do it, I remove my valuables—passport and cash—from the room where he is sleeping. Despite our friendship, I’m afraid that while in his current mood, upset and distrustful, he might be tempted to steal things.

Now, we witness a different scene: another dog—a retriever—is in a crate. Her owner is giving her up for adoption, and says good-bye to her, briefly, through the cage door. Then, her new owner, apparently the motherly woman who will adopt Pierrot, comes and opens the cage door and lets the dog out. They get to know each other gently. I think that this is how it could be for the little papillon, too—a sad separation, but the chance to go to a warm and loving home.

My first response to this dream, taking it literally, is anguish at the impossible decision to separate our homeless friend from his dog. I know that, in my waking life, I would not invite a homeless man into our home for the night—and I feel shame just as I felt in the dream when I distrusted my friend and kept my valuables out of his reach. Ignoring the last part of the dream, which suggests a more positive outcome, I can only think that taking away a man’s beloved dog is wrong, no matter what the justification. I do not accept the dream’s premise that this is the only option. It is too tragic and unfair. So, I am left with a painful predicament: How do I relate to a dream that pushes my buttons, and presents me with an apparently stuck situation? Continue reading


By Tina Tau, Guest Blogger

This post is third in a series of four that I’m doing while Kirsten is walking the Camino. They’re all connected with a dream-infused trip I took to Tuscany in the fall of 2006, when my marriage was on its last miserable legs.

In the beautiful hill-town of Pari I had my own little apartment. I spent the sunny, brilliant days picking olives on a farm in the valley. But on November 1st, I stayed in my apartment to do dreamwork. It was cold and foggy, the great views over the countryside gone, swaddled in silence.

I had four dreams from four consecutive nights to look at. I hoped they’d help me with my big questions: Should I leave my husband? What will that do to our daughters? If I leave him, what will I do, where will I go? Will I be okay? 

I trusted (and still trust) the wise people inside me who write my dreams to have a better grip on what is happening than I consciously did. I’m such a master of denial and so attached to getting things “right” that I am often blind to what is true. My conscious inclinations have led me down many dead end roads into the mud; my dreams somehow haul me out. I wanted that kind of heavy dream-winching to come into play on that foggy Day of the Dead.

The first of the four dreams, as I reported in my last post, was oddly short and neutral, just a short conversation with a woman who was looking for work on my behalf. That dream bore fruit a few months later in a strange turn of events that landed me a good job.

The other three dreams were longer, richer, metaphorical and emotional. These are short summaries:

About to Die

I arrive at a doctor’s office/clinic. Things are strangely quiet, inside and out of the clinic; there is a sense of impending but unknown crisis. On a TV screen I see an announcer reading from a press release. The crisis is worldwide, originating in the Nile delta. Someone herds all of us down the street and into a school auditorium for shelter. The general atmosphere is calm, but it’s clear we’re all going to die. A man is very distressed, and I explain to him that death is safe.

Continue reading

Looking for Work on My Behalf

By Tina Tau, Guest Blogger

In my last post, I started to tell the story of some dreams that belong to a trip I took to Italy in the fall of 2006, when my marriage was crumbling.

In Pari, an old Tuscan hill-town with winding climbing streets and ancient stone houses connected like beehives, I had a tiny studio for ten days. I started my days in the empty plaza a few steps up from my apartment, listening to roosters and the occasional bang of a hunter’s gun, looking out over the golden sweep of clouds and fields. Then I strode a mile downhill to the farm where my friend Rosie was staying with her boyfriend Carlos.

She and I helped his two farmhands with the olive harvest. It was happy, hard work. Olive trees are beautiful, with their twisty trunks and slender silvery leaves. We laughed, ate cold frittata for lunch on the rough-tilled ground, shook big nets of olives into blue plastic bins. Carlos put the bins in the back of his car and drove them to the presser, where they turned into silky, neon-green olive oil. We all ate dinner together and then I’d walk back up the hill in the dark, past the olive groves and lavender fields.

But I’d come on this adventure not just to pick olives and eat home-cured prosciutto; I’d come to interrupt my life, to see it from the outside instead of the painful, constricted inside. Should I leave my husband? Could I? What about our daughters? I had no money, and all I knew at this point was that I had to get a job. Without any money, I had no choices. Beyond that, I couldn’t see. I was starving for some perspective, for the long view. I wanted to be so far out at sea that I could steer my ship to end up on an entirely different coastline than the one I was headed for. Continue reading

Dark River

by Tina TauGuest Blogger

Kirsten has asked me to be a guest blogger at an interesting time. I’m in the midst of the sad and difficult waters of a breakup with my boyfriend of eight years. The work I’m doing around this breakup—and the energy of Kirsten’s pilgrimage on the Camino—bring to mind a deep adventure I had in Italy ten years ago, just before my marriage ended. This adventure was previewed by a big dream:

Dark River
September 2005
I’m in my dad’s book-lined study. One of the walls is waist high, with a river on the other side that is cresting into the room. I realize I’m going to have to swim, and meet up with my family later in New Orleans. I call my sister and tell her I have her kitten and doll, and she says, “Thanks, but if you’re swimming for your life, let them go.” Her voice grounds me into a new and more serious reality. In the river, I see I have to let them go, and I do. The river is very dark, very cold, scary and intense, sweeping me along.

The point of most intensity in the dream was the surging icy water up around my neck, and the blackness of the night and the water.

This was not just a vivid dream of coming change. It was also a heads-up about my attitude. My sister, a cancer survivor, was grounding me. She warned me, and it turned out to be so, that this swim was going to take everything I had—in two senses: It was going to take every ounce of my strength, and I was going to lose some precious stuff.

In October of 2006, about a year after the dream, I was lifted out of my life and given a chance to look at it from afar and above, much as Kirsten is doing on the Camino. My friend Rosie, a teacher in Hungary, wanted company on her visit to her boyfriend in Tuscany. She gave me the trip, air tickets and all, as a present. Continue reading

The Uncertainty Principle: in Pilgrimage and Lucid Dreaming

my friend Woody Brinati, posing as “the Westie boy"

My friend Woody Brinati, as “the Westie boy”

By the time you read this, I hope to be on the brink of departure—completing final preparations for a life-changing two-month pilgrimage. The plan is to leave May 1st, to walk across Spain, and then go on to the Netherlands to attend (and present a workshop) at the International Association for the Study of Dreams annual conference.

Maybe many of you are world travelers or athletic hikers, but, for me, this is the most challenging experience I’ve ever voluntarily undertaken. I’ve never been to Europe, and the complexities of modern travel intimidate me. This expedition is on a frugal budget, without much of a safety net. I’m a skinny 55-year-old with some of the disabilities of a 75-year-old, and, in spite of lots of training, walking 12 miles a day with a pack and staying in hostels will test my physical limits. On the way to the airport, I’ll certainly be wondering what I’ve gotten myself into!

However, as I’m writing this, the journey is still almost two months away (I usually write and schedule blog posts ahead)—and I don’t yet know whether any of my plans and dreams will actually come to pass.

At this moment, I’m up in the air. I had a surgical procedure two days ago, and will wait another week to get test results. It’s probably not cancer, but I won’t know for sure—and can’t buy my tickets and make a full commitment—until those results come back. So, there’s a chance that when you read this I’ll actually be in the midst of a completely different kind of journey, no longer preparing for the Camino after all. Right now, I’m still recovering from surgery and walking slowly around the block is enough to tire me out. It’s difficult even to imagine being ready for the Camino by late April. For a little while at least, everything is uncertain.

This is a strange place to be. I think I know how Schrödinger’s cat must have felt. I’m in that dark box, waiting patiently (!) to find out whether my pilgrimage plans are “alive” or “dead.” For now, both possibilities exist. I am both a pilgrim on a path, and a patient facing whatever has to be faced. When the box is opened, I will be one or the other… Right?

But, really, no matter how solid my plans may be, I’m always both a pilgrim and a patient. The path that I’m following is only revealed a few steps ahead (if that), and, ultimately, there’s no doubt I’ll encounter various critical turning points and detours along the way—places where the path may be swept away entirely by events beyond my control. That’s life.

“Two basic innate kinds of energy seem to operate during our lives. One may be called the energy of the journey; it is an energy that keeps us moving forward on our path with little radical change. Those who value life when it is a steady movement toward the future, comprised of a series of predictable choices and decisions, are most in tune with journey-energy. Such people are usually surprised and upset by the presence of the second kind of life-energy called death-rebirth. This is the energy that carries us into and through crisis, illness, loss, separation, major life changes, and radical transitions. Persons who have a crisis-personality—who seem at their peak when under pressure—usually operate well with death-rebirth energy.”
-Savary, Berne & Williams (from “Dreams and Spiritual Growth”)

While the authors of “Dreams and Spiritual Growth” describe “journey” and “death-rebirth” energy in terms of how certain personalities emphasize one or the other, I find that both are meaningful as a way of understanding my present (and perpetual) situation in life. In one sense, I’m always journeying, always going forward into the next possibility. In another sense, I’m always waiting at the edge of the unknown, surrendering to whatever transformative process comes next. Of course, both of these processes are also reflected in dreams.

I might imagine that, as a pilgrim, I’m following “journey” energy, and, as a patient (waiting in limbo for test results), I’m dealing with “death/rebirth” energy. Yet it’s not so simple. As a pilgrim, I can make plans and choices—but, paradoxically, true pilgrimage means letting go of both. As a patient, I must have no expectations—but, paradoxically, a willingness to encounter the unknown on its own terms allows me to be at peace with the journey of each moment. Really, the two “life energies” are inseparable and interdependent.

When I was being prepped for surgery the other day, I was reminded of being a cancer patient in my thirties. Yes, there’s anxiety and frustration in the helplessness of this role. There’s physical discomfort, some real pain, and the utter vulnerability of leaving my body in the care of strangers. My personal plans and choices are simply not relevant for a while. It’s a kind of ego-death that is essential to pilgrimage. Maybe I’m going through this uncertain part of the pilgrimage now, so I can have less of it later on…? Hm. Nice try.

Our plans and choices ebb and flow throughout the journey—sometimes it’s all about what we want to do and can do, but at other times we must let go, trust others, accept what comes, and respond rather than initiating action. In fact, this is exactly what I hope to be doing on the Camino.

In lucid dreaming, this ebb and flow of willed action and surrender is especially evident (see “Lucid Dreaming: Control and Choice”). Once I become aware that I’m dreaming in the midst of a dream, I may be able to direct the experience without many of the limitations imposed by waking life. But the lucid dream, like the pilgrimage, is most valuable when I can willingly relinquish the idea of control, and experience the dream as it comes to me: as a gift, a surprise, a challenge, a learning experience. Lucid dreaming calls for a balance: we take action and make choices, but we also ask, receive, invite, and accept.

Here’s a lucid dream fragment from last night:

Westie Boy: …There are two rude small boys mocking me. Should I make them float up into the air? Or change them into something? No, I’ll ask permission. I ask one of the boys if he’d like me to turn him into a dog. He and his friend are both enthusiastic. I begin to shape him, gently, with my hands, not knowing whether I have enough lucidity to make the transformation work. Then, I notice that the boy has curly white-blond hair, and a terrier-like spark. It feels like he wants to become a Westie (West Highland Terrier). Following this intuition, and with his cooperation, I can easily transform him into a stocky little Westie, trembling and wriggling with excitement. His friend points out that he’s not wagging his tail, and he tries a few tentative wags—enjoying the awkward sweep of his hind end. I notice his tail is unusually long and fluffy, and offer to shorten it for him…? But he pulls it out of my hands indignantly. It’s his tail, and he likes it this way. We’re all delighted by his new body, and the three of us frolic together.

Waking life is not so different from a lucid dream. Most of the time, we actually have less control, but more choices, than we might think. In the dream, do I really have the option of imposing my will on those dream figures—or would attempting to do so have closed off my own options, and drained the dream of its energy? Choosing not to impose but to ask and attend opened up more opportunities. Continue reading

Gentle Adventures: Dreaming Courageously, Without Catastrophe

dark road 01Adventures don’t need to be awful. I need not be awe-struck, but perhaps can be awe-stroked instead. In my dreams, I’ve been taking challenges in stride, bringing trust to bear on new experiences, finding courage in going forward slowly, feeling my way, with humility and willingness.

Dream of Walking Into The Dark: The car has broken down, and my companions are gone. I’m stranded at a desolate gas station with two men who are up to no good. I’m their prisoner, but we keep up a friendly pretense that we are just fellow travelers, while I try to figure out how to get away, and they try to decide what to do with me. We wait while the car is being repaired. It is dusk; we’ve been waiting for hours. Perhaps I could walk ahead? I know there’s a country store at the other side of the dense forest; from there, I could get help. The men pretend to go along with this, but in fact intend me harm. Either they’ll come after me and eliminate me where no one else can see, or I’ll be waylaid by bandits in the woods. I know they’re plotting, but also know that if I don’t let fear take over, I can outwit them and reach safety.

I believe it is less than a mile to the store. As I set out, darkness sets in. There is no moon. The road curves, and I run my hand along a bamboo fence as a guide into the total darkness of the forest. Then, the fence ends, the black woods close in on on both sides. I hold back my fear as I go, feeling the road with my feet. Bright eyes can be glimpsed in the deepest darkness, but they don’t look fierce and I don’t need to fear them. I’m following the road’s edge closely, so I won’t stray and wander off into the depths of the forest. I keep walking… Now, I realize it’s actually seven miles through this forest, and I prepare myself to accept a much longer journey than I had anticipated. I expect real danger ahead, but I know I can face it when it comes.

This dream reminds me of an all-night hike I took in my late teens, when I lived on an island off the coast of Maine. On my way home after midnight, I followed an unlit road that spiraled down a mountain, in total darkness, alone. The rhythm of my slapping footsteps on the sloping pavement was soothing and hypnotic. The downward road seemed to go on and on for hours, until I forgot myself. I was inseparable from the sounds and sensations of walking, from the clouded night sky, from the spiraling road.

These days, life seems a lot more complicated. As I prepare for the pilgrimage I’m planning to take, on the Camino de Santiago, in a couple of months [see “Pilgrimage: Walking the Way of the Dream” and “Surrender, Dreamer!“]—I’m overwhelmed by the complexity of my preparations, and regularly wrestle with the wish to control the process, to make everything manageable. There’s the challenge of getting physically strong enough. There’s the challenge of coping with my anxieties and habit patterns. And there’s the plain ridiculous effort of organizing transportation, communication, insurance, finances, supplies and logistics.

The goal is to place myself on an unfamiliar path, adapt to the circumstances I encounter, and just keep walking. So how come the preliminaries require so much planning? Well, we live in a complicated world. I long to let go, and step into the darkness without decisions or drama, feeling my way along, trusting something other than my own plans.

In the midst of all this, my dreams remind me that the important thing about any journey is to step forward—to let it carry me where I need to go. These months of preparation for the Camino are part of the camino, part of the journey, part of the way. And, as in the dream, I’m afraid but I just need to begin and go on. Continue reading

The Phenomenal Dream

slow sign 01When I write or talk about dreams, I often begin by writing or talking about waking life experiences. Dreaming and waking exist on a continuum—they are not entirely separate states, only variations in the landscape of consciousness. Our lives are the roads (or footpaths or railroad tracks) that wander through this ever-changing landscape: we pass through dreaming, waking, dreaming, waking… and all the different experiences in between.

Dreams make more sense, and offer more openings, if we remember that they are lived experiences—as subjectively real as any other experiences. The essential reason for paying attention to dreams is that they are part of our lives, remembered or not—and no part of our lives deserves to be discounted. If I want to live a full life, then I want to live my dreams fully, too. Living fully involves intentional participation in our experiences, waking or dreaming, and sometimes creative reflection upon these experiences.

To illustrate what I mean by this, I’ll reflect a bit on the waking experience I’m having today. Sometime after midnight last night, I developed a migraine—and, by the time I got up this morning, I had a blinding headache, nausea and dizziness. Those are the basic facts. If this were a dream, you might say it was a pretty awful dream. But, fortunately, although I had a full day planned, I didn’t have a strict schedule, and so could let my body decide how to go about the business of getting things done. It turned out that, after taking some medication for the pain, I could do most things I would have done anyway—only very, very slowly and carefully.

Migraines affect me peculiarly: they make me zero in on one thing at a time, with exquisite appreciation, so I become absorbed in every aspect of every moment. It’s as if the pain surrounds me like a shimmering shell of light, with a soft, cool hollow at the center where something newly born is nestled.

Sipping cranberry juice and coffee, eating crispy rice cakes and plain yogurt, brushing my teeth, talking (quietly) with Holly. Then puttering through some chores, and visiting the sunny morning outside, testing my senses…

A migraine heightens my awareness. The sensation of tipping and spilling the stale water out of the birdbath so I can refill it is like tipping and spilling and refilling something inside my chest. Lowering my head as I crouch to pick a weed makes the world around me rearrange itself at a different angle, and I can feel the stringy stem between my fingertips and smell the soil as the roots let go. I have to keep looking down (resting my eyes on the soft, blunt colors of the ground) because the world is too intensely bright. Even the softest bird call (a chickadee, a goldfinch) feels painfully sharp and clean—like cool air on a toothache. Continue reading

Halfway Down The Stairs: What Makes A Dream Worth Dreaming?

Some dreamworkers claim that it’s necessary to distinguish between dreams that are worthy of our attention and dreams that are not. I keep on disputing that claim (see “Housekeeping Dreams” and “Dream Composting”), but it must be admitted that although every dream, like every day of our lives, can be valuable and meaningful, some certainly do seem to be more valuable and meaningful than others.

In one exciting dream, for example, I had the opportunity to assist the Dalai Lama:

Dalai Lama Dream: First, he is an 80 year old man, then he is a little boy, then an infant, then a corpse, then a young man—and I am responsible for escorting (and sometimes carrying) him through all these transformations… Later, one of his attendants gives me a carafe full of thick liquid. But when I ask if it is mine, she says no. I hand it back and she gives it to me again, saying it is for me. I ask if I am supposed to keep it, and again she says no, so again I give it back. She returns it to me once more and tells me that it is for me to keep alive. After she has gone, I understand: the liquid is like a sourdough starter—I’ll set some aside, add to it, let it grow, keep it alive, until there is more than enough to give back…

This is indisputably important stuff! A meaningful role in the reincarnation of life itself! And what a great metaphor! It was satisfying to bring this dream to my peer dream group (along with a lot more detail that I don’t have room to include here)—and they added their own insights until, like a good yeasty dough, the dream’s already-evident potential was expanded further still…

Of course, some dreams demonstrate their qualities and get our attention right away. Sometimes, we know a dream is significant because (as with the “Dalai Lama Dream”) it has a big theme, or a clever twist. Sometimes, its emotional impact makes it stand out. Maybe it’s a frightening nightmare, or maybe it’s a transcendent revelation, or maybe it’s just stunningly beautiful, but whatever it is, we know we’re onto something.

Halfway Down 01And then, there are all of the other dreams. The ones where the bathroom is filthy, or I can’t remember the telephone number, or my hair is green and sticky, or I’m arguing furiously with someone very stubborn, or there’s no cake left at the buffet… These dreams have emotional content, but it’s ordinary emotion—nothing special. Like the familiar diversions and distractions of a typical day, the dream events don’t impress.

A typical recent dream of mine reflected this kind of ordinary emotion, in an ordinary way. I’m still grieving over the death of my mother, but the feelings are mostly just a part of me now, a part of my life. I’m reminded of her, remember that she is gone and, for a while, I feel lost and sad. This feeling presented itself quietly in my dream:

Halfway down the stairs: I stop halfway down a flight of dusty wooden stairs, and I just sit. I am sad, and I need to stop here and rest and feel the loneliness of my losses. I sit quietly, by myself.

This uneventful dream doesn’t make a statement or bring a message. It’s just a feeling, just an experience. Most of our days are filled with experiences like this—our doing and our being, our ups and our downs, our neither-here-nor-there happenings. Looking back over the years, we’ll remember the big events, or the things that led up to the big events, or the things that followed the big events… But whether we remember them or not, there have been a lot of other things going on besides crises. Between the big events and beyond the big events, there were those halfway-down-the-stairs experiences. Continue reading

The Dream Gatherers

Here are two quite different approaches to dreams:

blueberries 011-We sharpen our weapons and follow the trail, deep into the forest. There, we corner the wild dream beast, and, after a long and valiant battle, we return victorious with meat for a great feast.

2-We get all the kids and old people together and go out with our baskets and sacks. Perhaps we have one particularly fine patch of dream berries in mind, but on the way there and on the way back we find all sorts of other treasures: some dream nuts and mushrooms, and maybe a nice stream where the kids can play and catch a few crayfish, or a meadow where wildflowers are blooming, or a shady, soft place for a nap when it gets too hot. We chat as we walk, and we munch as we gather, and then we all come home satisfied with our day. Nobody makes much of a fuss over our full bags and baskets, but, after a modest supper, there’s still plenty left over to add to the storehouse. If we do this again tomorrow (and the next day, and so on…), our community thrives.

Traditionally, the first would be the men’s story, and the second would be the women’s. However, where dreamwork is concerned, both men and women can participate in either approach. You might be able to tell by the description that I’m biased in favor of the gathering method. However, both hunting and gathering have their places in a healthy human community, and in the world of dreamwork. The only reason to put a greater emphasis on the less glamorous approach of the gatherer is that the hunter generally monopolizes the field. Continue reading

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