Sacred Thresholds, Navigating the Corridors of Change and Retrieving the Power to Bless

This is the subject and script of a talk I gave at Unity of Taos on the cusp of the new year, January 3rd, 2016.  I offer it here as a segue and blessing into the powerful new year of 2016.

~ THERE IS ONLY ENOUGH ROOM

There is only enough room at the prow of the ship for one heart.

It is meant to be a tight spot

In that crease where the two sides meet

No crowds can gather.

Looking out from that place

From that place into the growing dark

It is always night there

Nothing can be seen.

But if you close your eyes and lean in far enough

If you really lean deep into your own darkness

You begin to feel the future

Making itself in front of you.

At first it will be the senses

Telling you about the weather

The wind and the salt spray

And you could almost leave it all there.

But if you stay on after your wits die down

You move into that other dominion

Where the eyes live somewhere outside of you

There hanging on the air

Hovering on vibration

Waiting for a moment in the world

And all the while still a child

Singing the quiet praises

Of ripe

Unpicked

Fruit.

PATTI TRONOLONE

 

Perhaps something breaks.

Perhaps something is taken from you.

Perhaps a season has simply come to an end.

It is at these threshold moments where everything is asked of you;

that it matters the most

to pilot your own crossings

to Love yourself,

And to stay present right here

in the gap.

For here is the passage.

Here is the transformation.

Here is the leap and

Here is your evolution.

 the sun casts a shadow

the sun casts a shadow

The Oxford dictionary says: a threshold is a point of entry or beginning

The poet John O’Donohue takes it further. He says,

A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres... a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up…where a great complexity of emotion comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope.

There is often a pause at the doorway when we are simply standing in a sense between two worlds—all that has gone before and what has yet to come and can still be shaped by our awareness. So we often relive events from the past so we can understand fully what we have learned and in doing so move forward aware. The desire on new years to complete the unresolved things from our life and to set new visions for our accomplishment, requires a threshold. We cannot set our new vision until we have rewalked the territory of what has passed.

It is an eternal experience that often feels disorienting because it does not inhabit time in the same way, they are energy fields on the verge of becoming something else, something new. And even tho this is always true, there is something unique to a threshold that crosses a significant boundary in ones life.

As human beings we have the right and the power to bless.

To make sacred, to name holy something or someone.

Blessing difficult endings, especially in relationship can actually be the healing force that allows us to move forward. This past year I had a relationship of 10 years come to an end. No matter how much I tried to repair it, it remained broken. Once I finally accepted that this was meant to be, I blessed it, I blessed both what had been a meaningful friendship and I blessed its ending. And in blessing it I said, I cannot change what has happened but I can acknowledge its change and how I am holding it, and in doing so was able to leave all bitterness and struggle behind.

 buddha with lamp and flower

buddha with lamp and flower

I am not a Buddhist scholar but long ago I heard a story of when the Buddha was visited by Mara, a great force of distraction and distortion. Much like Jesus’s tempatation by a dark force in the desert, Mara was offering some power that was in conflict with integrity to the Buddha. In response the Buddha pressed his finger to the earth, and in doing so he called forth the presence of all the witnesses to his evolution from all lifetimes, to stand beside him to face this destructive force.

In times of trial, we too can put our fingers to the earth and call upon all the forces of Good that have seen us through our own many lifetimes, invoke our highest Self to face these times of peril.

A blessing is a protective circle of light.

Blessing difficulties acknowledges that one has or is stepping through a difficult passage that has gripped the heart and calling upon one's inner priest/priestess to bless the ordeal and the moments of tenacity of purpose.

The transformative power of challenges is no small thing. It was said by Paul Valery, the French poet, essayist and philosopher,

"That a difficulty is a light; an insurmountable difficulty is a Sun."

Sometimes it is the image of our task that we carry that makes a task difficult.

If we change the image of how we perceive it, the task itself will unfold more smoothly.

Ask yourself now, with the tasks you have in front of you, what image are you holding of your tasks? When you can name the way something is being held often you can walk thru it more easily.

The New Year is a time of looking back and seeing the blessedness and blessings of our lives and the Goodness that has been with us and followed us and guided us and continues to.

Where do we bless from? We drop into the vastness where we are one with everything and everyone and from there call for a blessing, and like the Buddha,invoking the vast to be with you.

Whenever one person takes another into the custody of their heart, they have the authority to bless. When we love someone we turn toward them with our Divinity and the Spirit itself is the wellspring of blessing.

Acts of kindness carry their own luminosity and in themselves become beacons of light that bless.

Seeing and acknowledging someone, raising them up in your seeing these are ways in which our blessing holds great power for the transformation of another.

Recently I left to take a long trip overseas.  I went to see my landlady before I left.  She is an elderly woman.  She looked straight into my eyes and said to me, "Always remember where you are and may God go with you." I felt the sweetness and the realness of her blessing and I thanked her.

A blessing is to call some quality of wholeness upon a person to make whole a loss, to make good a journey, to raise a life.

We do not bless by ourselves but we invoke the power of the universe in the name of love.

You will never know the true potential of blessing, the forms it can take, the ways it can alter one's life and the lives of others.

It is a private act, a sacred act of great power and humility. It says, I cannot change the past but I can bless it and say "so be it" and move forward.

There are places that are containers of blessedness. Places in nature, places such as these­­– of devotion and respect. The ancients knew this, we still know this. It is here right now.

How do they come?

Thresholds arrive in all shapes and manners.

Perhaps We have come slowly to realize that what we have been doing or what we have taken ourselves to be are no longer alive in us, we can look at it differently instead of resenting it we can see that this loss of aliveness is actually an opportunity, which will require some growth for a necessary change to occur.

So in this way, the challenges of change can be reframed as a portal to an entirely new sense of aliveness, life and possibility. What if we looked upon everything that occurred to us in our lives as an entry point to the new. Would we ever think or say the word calamity again? If our life is made up of a myriad of entry points what benevolent conspiracy is this thing called life? And how close to us is our soul?

John O'Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, writes:

"Behind the facade of the familiar, strange things await us."

Their beauty and mystery is that they come often when we need them most or when we are not the least bit aware that they are going to arrive. They are always a challenge; a challenge that demands great courage from us, especially when one opens up for which you are not prepared.  This could be illness, suffering, or loss. It could be a great and unexpected surprise or invitation.

Some Years ago I was living on the Cape in Massachusetts and my partner at the time was out of town when a hurricane blew up. His sailboat was in the water and I took it upon myself to save it from being blown away. In the midst of it I misjudged the depth of the water and I began to drown. I was so surprised by this I heard myself say out loud—now, now I am going to die now? If it be Thy will I give myself to You but if it is not Your will, I Choose Life. In an instant a great wave rolled over me and washed me up onto the beach. Over the next days and weeks, I wept. I realized that I had always felt a bit ambivalent about being here. The tears came because I saw that I had just been given the opportunity to say out loud, "I Want To Be Here". This was a threshold moment. They are not always like this but sometimes they are. The important part, in my experience, is to accept them and learn to look at them with great respect because they are being offered from our souls.

What do they serve?

Thresholds serve the destiny of our individual souls. They form us and draw color and the unusual into our lives. The things that happen to us tell us a little more about who we are. What aspect of our nature is trying to evolve and strengthen, what gifts are hidden in these life events, gifts that we will come to share and teach to others.

The script of each person's destiny is a secret, we never know who we are actually looking at when we face another human being. And so we do not often even know ourselves.

That we are even here is a huge confirmation that somehow life needed us here and wanted us to exist. To really take this in can open a large well of self-acceptance and self-love in the heart.

A threshold need not be a threat-instead it can be a call, an incitement to promise. We can trust that if it has come we are somehow completely ready for it.

How can we serve them?

We can learn how to rein back on the innate drive for accomplishment. And to really listen in the stillness of these transitions.

To recognize when we are somewhere in the corridor of a life transition and to accept that it has its own timing, divine timing. We cannot rush them. It doesn’t mean it is easy.

So too when a threshold is a great loss, the loss of the familiar has a grief period. Loss of the familiar can be devastating.  But it can also reveal the hidden resources we did not even know we had. Often we are numbed by what we are used to and we stop knowing ourselves as the creative gifts that we are.  We stop seeing the ones we love, the place we live, we are not guffawed by beauty. This is the hidden gift of change- it shakes us awake to what is happening all around us, to what has been happening. Transitions are crossings.  They are full of potential as well as challenge.

Loss of the familiar has available within it great creative forces  if we can learn to listen and appreciate the aspects of ourselves that don’t get seen when we are driving our ambitions, or making each moment part of an agenda. All that we have taken for granted gets eclipsed by a threshold.

Because in the loss of the familiar we cannot see ourselves in the same way we become privy to our essential self in a new way and we can ask new questions:

  • Who and what am I,
  • What is this container – the human being and what powers does it hide?

We can learn to see all the varieties of presence available; listen inward with complete attention until we hear the inner voice calling us forward that The time has come to cross.

And then one day, the way in which spring secretly overtakes winter, barely discernible, we pass thru the doorway, sometimes in a sweeping motion, sometimes in a gradual dissipation of small moments and sometimes both. We wake suddenly or gradually to a new present. And we are aware we have changed.

As we sit here together, or at any time you can ask yourself:

At what threshold am I now standing,

At this time in my life what am I leaving?

Where am I about to enter and

What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold?

What gift would enable me to do it?

Who would I be if I were to make this crossing?

What would my life be like if I were to gather myself

Trust that all that I need is within me?

To say to life to the cosmos to God

Here I am

I am ready.

I choose life.

I would like to end this talk with a blessing by John O'Donohue called:

Blessing for a New Beginning

In out of the way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you

Noticing how you willed your self on

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back; learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

Ripping the Veil

And I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit,

That impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey (excerpt)

I would like to write about two topics over the next couple of weeks – one on the subject of persona and the other on the subject of reflected love.

We live our lives as if totally convinced of our stories of others and ourselves until we have an experience of another reality, a hidden reality.  Then the basis for all our beliefs wobbles and we see we have not been scraping the surface of bedrock, but the pillowed existence we have built on top of it.

Through this discussion my intent is not to bash the personality.  It is with us as long as we are in human skin.  It is shaped by all our life experiences and is part of the way we relate and make our lives work, pursue careers and have families.  It is a necessary aspect of our lives.

My intent here is to give it its place. And to raise the question about who and what we actually are, and what is keeping us in hiding.

In this first dream, a decision is made to face myself completely, not realizing what that might mean.

October 12, 2011

Papji, a 20th century Indian sage, once commented that the presence of a lion in a dream was a sign of the Higher Self in pursuit of you.

I am both in the dream and witness to the dream.

There is a lion, so small and harmless. I have it in a bowl of peanut butter. I am looking at it thinking if I let this cat out I will prove I am ready to face myself completely, knowing it will be life size if I do. With that thought the lion is out of the bowl, life size, in the room, my bedroom. It is very frisky and is nipping at me like a dog but it is a bit stronger. I look up and now there are TWO wild cats in the room. I watch my character get up on the bed with my back to the headboard, as far back as I can get. One of the lions jumps up onto the bed and with one stroke tears off my face. I hear myself saying, “Well there goes my face.” I am thinking, “I wonder what it will be like to live without a face.” Scene shift. I am with the lions again; we are in my living room. They are very lively and moving around. “It is Sunday,” I say, “and I can finally get to really look at the details.” End of dream.

Initially in the dream I am looking at a tiny lion in a bowl of peanut butter. The lion is like a childhood toy in a bowl of childhood food. When I see it there I am aware I am living behind the façade of being a helpless child, playing at consciousness, and that if I really wanted to know what and who I am I would only have to say it and the lion would be life size. And with this thought—poof! The lion is full-grown, there in my bedroom – the place of intimacy. The lion is frisky, not calm or serene, nipping me – making full contact with its mouth and teeth. And then there are TWO lions…and I feel their intent and pursuit of me. (When TWO shows up in this context I am reminded of the two headed snake, the two headed elephant, the Adam and Eve myth, the Shiva/Shakti story—the duality speaks to the masculine and feminine aspects but also to the sense that the Infinite embodies wholeness and is not in short supply. They come perhaps to represent the creative force of the universe-the ever-generative power of creation from which we are born.) I climb up onto the bed and press myself back into the headboard. I know the inevitable is coming and in the dream I want to feel the solidness of something behind me, bracing me for when it comes. With one stroke the lion tears off my face; there is no pain. Only a true wondering: “What it will be like to live without a face, what it will be like to be seen by others without a face?” And then there is a scene shift – and I am in my ‘living’ room (I have brought this shift into my real life).  The lions are there, very lively moving around. And almost in answer to my query of What will it be like,  I say aloud, “It is Sunday—(Sunday- the day dedicated to the sacred-the sun, the source of light), and I can finally get to really look at the details—(I can finally look without a mask at all there is to see.)

My intent is not to bash the personality.  It is with us as long as we are in human skin.  It is shaped by all our life experiences and is part of the way we relate and make our lives work, pursue careers and have families.

My intent is to raise the question about whether we actually have any idea who we are. And if we don't, what is keeping us in hiding.

 shadow introductions

shadow introductions

“The ancient Greeks, in their renowned comedies and tragedies, had their actors portray their characters by holding up masks in front of their faces. The masks were known as “personas”. And so it is. We have come to identify with our “personas” rather than realizing that we are each but mere characters in a divine play. We get to explore life as our character and engage in the game of hide and seek wherein we seek and find the divine in each other and in all things. [But] More often we hide our divinity and hide the divinity of others and all things.”

LINLEY SOLARI

So to ask the question is to begin to lower the mask, to admit that we don’t actually know what and who we are.  And perhaps opens the way for the God within us to reveal a glimpse of our true wealth.

Friend, this is the only way to learn the secret way:

Ignore the paths of others,

Even the saints' steep trails.

Don't follow.

Don't journey at all.

Rip the veil from your face.

SACHAL SARMAST, Translation by Ivan. M. Granger

 

Dust of the Earth, Dust of a Star

If you accept the nature of dreams as being from one's Higher Self then it changes the way you view your life and the lives of others.  In a sense we lead a double life – Earth and Star – and there is no getting around it. But how we treat ourselves, how we address our missteps – this we have control over. The following dream illuminated how I was seeing myself by giving me the contrast from the 'other side'.

I dream I am a soul named Lawrence.  I am looking back at my life, which I am still living but from which I am taking a time-out to look at certain events. In my living I have been somewhat hard on myself and impatient with the parts of my life that are filled with unawareness.  When I am on my time-out, however, my view of myself is softer, because I am in a place of Light, and I simply look at the events from my life, saying aloud, "Oh I am in unawareness here, and oh there, and there too." But there is no harshness or despair, simply seeing things for what they are –  more or less conscious. Then the scene shifts to me as Patti on Earth and I still remember Lawrence. I understand I have been feeling rough around the edges as I tackle some core issues especially when I look at myself through the bright searchlights of self-criticism as opposed to through the non-judgmental love of my inner light. I get to see—"ah just unawareness here in these areas."  I get to see what Lawrence sees. The weight of measurement and self condemnation lifts off my shoulders and heart. It is a relief.

I share the dreams on this blog to illustrate the instructive potential of the realm in dreams.  I invite anyone who would like to work with their dreams to submit a dream and I am happy to look at it and see what I can see, of course anonymously.

I wish you a Blessed and belated Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

The Healing Power of Images

Painting the Inner World: Part Two“Our images are our keepers as we are theirs.”

JAMES HILLMAN, A Blue Fire

There are three paintings I will share to illustrate my own engagement of painting in relationship to dreams: the feelings they bring up, their images— all that can arise from the non-ordinary state of being.

The first is a dream I had of a visit from my father.

I dream I am at a resort or a place like that with my parents and family. (Both of my parents are deceased.) I am outside in nature. I see my father coming toward me but on a semi-circular pathway, on higher ground on the other side of a partial iron fence that curves between usand the feeling is that he has the intention of imparting something to me... He is dressed in a green silk jacket with gold pants and he is carrying a large green feather that is an unusual shape, somewhat like a branch. When he gets close to me I say to him, “You look so beautiful! I want to paint you with your green feather.” He says in response, “I would love it if you painted a painting of me.” The feather is unusual– in size and color and form. My father has dropped it by my feet and kept walking. I pick it up and am conscious of wanting to hold onto the image of the feather in my mind. End of dream.

vidi in sogno
vidi in sogno

When we receive a visit from our parents in our dreams their behavior and our relationship to them can seem other worldly, or unusually restorative or be unlike how we remember them. Sometimes this reflects our own evolution of the childhood relationship and sometimes it reflects a new potential that is being presented to us. A potential  by itself can be therapuetic because we have an actual experience of it in the dream state that imprints us, as it were, with "new information". Rarely is the imprint complete but it provides a new template with which to work in some arena of our childhood. At the time of this dream I had been in the process of some intense inner work for 15 years. In the dream, my father is walking toward me—he is on the 'other side of the fence' (which is often included in a dream of someone who is departed from us—so we can see them in their unique new state set slightly apart from us). Even the words "on higher ground" denote a distinctive way in which these characters are traveling and may call us onto that higher ground with them. The setting of the dream is that we are out in nature which is more emotionally neutral and a higher vibrational atmosphere, and so it would seem that this dream was not associated with the past. We were in fact on holiday, relaxing at some kind of resort,  a restorative place. Alluding to the remedial potency of the dream.

In real life I am a lover of birds and I find myself collecting their feathers. So the fact that my father was carrying a large green feather to drop at my feet was felt as a very supportive gesture that bypassed the need for words–in the dream I felt the utter magic, love and paternal guidance in it. My associations with the color green are with Healing and with Nature. And in exploring my association with the feather, I find a deep connection to an ancient, wilder part of my self — I see the feather as a symbol of freedom and elevated seeing. The fact that I expressed my desire to paint my father within the dream and the fact that he heartily agreed with this desire spoke to me afterwards. I was to paint my father "anew", to allow my father this new image in my eyes.  It was like a direction that was being given straight from my dream character to follow. I saw that the painting of it would continue the healing in a more profound way than simply processing the dream through my writing of it. If it is true that we keep evolving after we leave the life of the body, then in that way all that we do in our lives affects the lives of others even if they have passed on.

While painting this dream I was very surprised how clearly I remembered my father’s face that I had not seen since 1993. This too alerted me to the timeliness of the dream and the significance in painting it.

“Draw near to the dream with respect and attention, enter its culture like a foreigner open to new ways. Befriend it, participate in it, enter into its imagery, and mood, want to know more about it, understand, play with, live with, carry, and become familiar with it – as one would do with a friend…Stay with the dream, let it take you to places rarely glimpsed. “— JAMES HILLMAN, A Blue Fire

In the next dream that came a few years later it was revealed that a part of myself had been muted in childhood. I retained very few visual details of the actual dream but the feeling sensations were vivid and clear when I awoke. The feelings were of having been silenced by my parental figures.  And the silencing carried the sense of a threat to my safety if I did not capitulate.  I felt quite young.

So for this dream painting, I painted the feeling of the dream rather than the literal scene of the dream. I was drawn to paint the entire painting in green and I understood from that the recognition that this aspect of myself had begun to heal. When we look at these images we have painted, especially if they depict some aspect of our selves or our history that we did not know or remember, the images flood us with compassion for ourselves, they imbue us with the same innocence we inhabited at birth.  We are new again in them.

I display paintings like this, whose images are suffused with the medicine of the dream in my visual arena for a period of time. And sometimes, I can put away the painting, even for a number of years and then suddenly bring it out again when the memory of it arouses some need I have to be re-impacted by the curative energy of the dream-infused icon.

The depth of even the simplest image is truly fathomless. This unending, embracing depth is one way that dreams show their love.

JAMES HILLMAN, Dream and the Underworld

A third painting arose from an experience in which I was in a deep state of awareness and suddenly I was being rushed to a “Center” by a force outside myself and as I was being ‘taken’ there I passed by an image of myself – a head with his mouth open — talking. I identified it as myself even though it was a man’s head. It was like I was passing some scenery in a car that was being driven by someone else and I said, “Oh, there’s Patti.” The experience eventually stopped on its own and I was left with a very real sense of having been dipped momentarily into the ineffable.

When I painted this painting, I felt my potential as a Human Being in a way I had not acknowledged as deeply before, that I was someone other than the familiar Patti, talking— that “s/he” was in fact off to the side of the screen and the true “I” was in the hands of a larger force taking me to the “Center”. After I had painted the head off to the side, this huge egg shape appeared and then the image of the hand appeared, like a shimmering apparition within the egg coming to the surface—When it appeared it felt almost like the cave paintings of hands I have seen. To paint and experience it I actually laid my hand in dark pigment and swiped it across the belly of the egg — the egg that for me was the symbol of an unknown potential I was experiencing in real time in this state of awareness.

man with egg
man with egg

In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one. That is why I speak of inner experiences, amongst which I include my dreams and visions.

CARL JUNG, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

 

Dream inquiry: Developing Your Dream Question

I have heard it said that more important than knowing what the answer is to an issue is knowing what the question is.This is the place from which to begin any dream inquiry.

Dreams can be engaged in and played with to invite an on-going dialogue with the inner self to address significant themes in your life and come to a deeper understanding of specific issues.

There are 3 pieces to formulating a good dream inquiry question:

  • Develop a question that will shine a light on what your issue is.
  • And in the same request ask what is the medicine for resolving this obstacle in your life?
  • Be resolute in wanting to know the answer.

For example you could ask,  "What is the primary stumbling block to establishing financial flow in my life AND what is the medicine to resolving that issue?” (Without asking for the medicine you might dream all night of the ways in which you are stumbling but without any resolution offered!)

Or by way of another example

“What core belief or beliefs do I hold that keep me from experiencing joy in my life and what is the medicine for releasing them?”

Now it is not always necessary to know all the things we need to ask. I know someone who simply says each night to her higher self, “You know what I need to know, so please send it”.

 i stood to face her

i stood to face her

But sometimes there are specific questions regarding life events. In all situations it is best to stay away from how questions. Our highest self does not like to tell us what to do.

However we can ask something like-

“What do I need to know about such and such issue…?”

Or, “What am I blind to in this situation and what is the medicine for seeing it clearly? “

In this way we can receive all the nuances of information we might need to come to an understanding of its turn-around. We can ask for resolution to the same issue over the course of a week or a month or a year.

If, for example you are trying to find healing for an illness to complement the guidance you are receiving from your doctor, you will need to adopt an unwavering and diligent approach— do not give up if your inquiry takes you longer than you would like. Keep at it.

Or perhaps you are applying for a new job and you are unsure if this is a good fit for you. Or perhaps you are going into a new situation- a public talk or a new city and you want to know if there is anything you need to be aware of before you go.

A few years ago I was asked to come to Minneapolis by a client to give a public talk on the nature of healing, where afterwards I would be doing hands-on healing work with folks. This was my first public talk in a brand new city with folks I did not know. So I asked in a dream question, to show me anything that I was blind to in this situation and the medicine to navigate through it. I received a dreams, it came a few weeks before the trip.

In the dream I am meeting a group of people on a bridge. I was coming from one direction and they were coming from another. I was riding a very big bike, bigger than what I was used to. It was difficult to pedal because the bridge curved upward in the center. When I got to the crest of the hill of the bridge and I met the people I turned around and they followed me down in the direction they were heading. As soon as I turned, the pedaling eased and the ride smoothed out. I noticed leaving the bridge there were folks in boats in the water underneath the bridge following the current of the river. They were laughing and really enjoying themselves. Because they were in the flow of the river current they were not having to effort at all so they could relax and enjoy the ride, directing the boat in a luxurious fashion. End of dream.

 The dream showed that I was in a new role – riding a bigger bike than I was used to and I was preparing myself by working hard on the talk and getting hung up in the details of making the talk happen in my head ahead of time – the uphill pedaling experience. But when I got to the middle of the bridge and met the people where they were coming from,  and I turned my bike around on the crest of the hill – the place of the most efforting – they followed me and it was downhill from there. Seeing the people under the bridge in the water was a reminder that being in one's essence and delight would provide the momentum for movement and everything could flow from that. When we are in alignment with our higher self, life is easier and more relaxing. Then steering happens out of the relaxed state instead of the tight controlled state.

In fact the public talk went like that. The night before I gave the talk I woke up in the middle of the night laughing. I was laughing because there was some epiphany forming in my heart and I saw that everything in life was about healing…there was virtually nothing that was not designed from the beginning to bring you into wholeness. And that it was from that point of view I could inspire folks to relate. The next evening at the talk this epiphany and its laughter was still bubbling. Once I met the people where they were, I put my notes aside and the talk flowed out from the ethers. There was a lot of joy in the room, folks felt comfortable and when it was over I had prepared the week for the work I would do, by weaving into it the freedom of this innocence.

I have found that the most effective way to enhance the effectiveness of our dream inquiry is by the sincere resolve to work with the dream material that comes to us. And if what comes is not clear to give thanks and ask for clarification.

There are other reasons to engage in dream inquiry or make a request to the dream realm—

fire rock_
fire rock_

Sometimes we are stuck. Stuck in a dark place, or stuck in feeling badly about ourselves or stuck in our habits that keep us cycling through the same material over and over so we begin to feel as if our inner work is not progressing and our lives are standing still. We are looking for the light of day and our own minds are too bogged down to allow it to come through. Basically we need to bring about a change of heart, be lifted into a higher vibration, feel again a sense of promise and joy. I have always found the dream realm’s response to this state is profound and beyond any expectation, when we ask, because too often it is then we are in a real state of humility. In response sometimes you receive a dream that is pure medicine that contradicts every possible harshness you might experience in your life.

Here is one dream that came in response to such a time in my own life:

I dream I am standing outside of my window on the ground in my nightclothes watching a group of Beings coming toward me on horseback. As they get closer I see that they are Angels, royal in their bearing and they are full of light. They are dressed in the finest raiment of pure gold, sitting very tall on their horses, carrying banners. And there are clusters of stars hovering above them as they ride. I know they have come for me and I am ecstatic. Every worry or small way I have ever seen my life goes completely out the window. I am in the trance of anticipation of their company, and what they are bringing. When I wake up I am in wonder and complete awe.

Awe is a very transformative state to live in. Its very vibration makes everything ordinary in life shine with a different light. Just being in the experience of awe has a completely healing effect on the system. This dream had an archetypal quality to it because it brought beings of another realm, a celestial realm to visit me. When I woke the feeling from what I had witnessed and been visited by had changed me.

(I included the experience of this transformation in a poem I wrote later called: I Was a Soldier. It is recorded on my website in the Poetry section.)

Another dream came when I felt inundated by my own conditioned responses to everything, and weary.

In the dream I was a witness, not a participant in the dream, to groups of people interacting. Everyone in the dream was acting from their own truth and creativity as a human being. No one was acting out of guilt or pretense or image making or obligation. There were feelings and emotions in the dream but no discordant drama. In effect it was watching people live their lives in a state of freedom and true kindness toward one another and the harmony that would grow out of that amazing possibility.

The dream needed no interpretation – I received the understanding of what I was working towards and that all of my effort, no matter how long it took, was worth it.

Coming next will be a section on How to take notes from a dream, the key questions to ask yourself in working with the dream material and ways to anchor the message in your life.

Please feel free during this series on dreams to write in with your questions and send in a dream if you are struggling with something and if you think a dream you have had is pointing to something you can’t get a handle on. If the dream is  resonant with what is being offered I am happy to anonymously work with it in this series.

Dreams and How You Remember them

Have you ever wondered what is actually happening when you dream? Physicists who have studied this, whose findings are not dissimilar from indigenous peoples define a dream as a tableau of images and story ‘created’ when the light of a person’s consciousness touches or collides with the unseen realm, a person’s higher self. Dreams tend to be holographic by nature; meaning you can often distill the essence of the dream though its parts.

How can You Remember Your Dreams?

Many people think that they don’t in fact dream because their dreams slip away when they wake up. There are ways to change this.

When I was in my early 20’s I was taking a literature class at Johns Hopkins University taught by Dr. Ralph Harper, called Dreams and Reality. We studied a major work by Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann. During the class I sat in discussion with another student and I told her I never remembered my dreams and had given up on it. She was one of those rare individuals who had grown up in a family that discussed their nightly dreams at the breakfast table. She gave me the following tips that have never failed me and started me off on my dream journeying and has never let up. I pass them along to you.

The 3 most important tips on how to unlock the door to your dreams:

As with everything in creation the most important thing for remembering your dreams starts with setting your INTENTION.

  • Hold the intention before you go to sleep that you would like to remember your dream(s) clearly enough to be able to write them down.
  • Put a notebook and pen next to your bed to write down your dreams. Some people use recording devices that they have set up for the same purpose, such as on an iPhone or similar device.
  • Ahead of time hold gratitude in your heart for what you are about to receive and make the commitment to work with the substance of the dream to the best of your ability.

The 3 biggest obstacles to remembering your dreams:

  • Self-censorship: when a dream comes and you label it ‘stupid’ or you see it as ‘unflattering’ or ‘unimportant’, or the information in the dream feels disturbing, and so you decide to discount it. In fact these are the dreams with the most potential to change our lives.
  • Moving away from the dream state too quickly. Instead, when you wake up in the morning from your dream allow yourself to lie there a few moments before you become fully awake—savor the dream and before your feet hit the floor begin writing your dream down. Do not attempt to interpret your dream. As much as you can write the dream as you experienced it–all the feelings that were present, your sense of the others in your dream. The place.
  • Thinking the dream is too small. Sometimes all we receive is a snippet, like a scene in a play. However dreams are holographic in nature so even the fragments can contain the whole and can in fact be very powerful.

If you lose your dream, you can pay attention during the day if anything triggers a memory of it or the feeling of it. If it does you can try and capture the fragment or the feeling or the image and ask that another one be given to you.

In this way you begin to develop a correspondence with your inner dreamer and a connection is made that says that you want to know what is being transmitted.

The more you do this the clearer your dreams will become and the easier you will find it to hold onto dreams.

caughtinthebranches
caughtinthebranches

Do not rush to interpret your dream! Do not buy dream dictionaries and apply the stock definition to an image you might receive. Allow your dream image to fully affect you. Allow your own intelligence to work with the images and characters without labeling them. When we label anything it shrinks and loses its original potency. Images are full of power–consider their potent effect in advertising! After you have had a chance to really soak up the image and hear your own impressions then a little skate on the internet can inspire further understanding.

Are all dreams the same?

in close range
in close range

There are many kinds of dreams that come to us; here are the most common:

  • There are what I would call ordinary dreams that show you, by way of a story, the dynamics of how your lives are playing out or being lived on some level.
  • There are repetitive dreams. A repetitive dream is one that comes to try to work something out. These can happen over a lifetime or over a few months. They come to offer some essential knowledge that the higher self deems important and necessary and they keep coming back until the knowledge is understood and integrated. Many times you do not know what these dreams are trying to tell you initially. For example, the most common repetitive dream is when you dream an assailing character in the dream is chasing you. Over a series of months or years your response to being chased will change and when you finally turn around and face the character or change your fear response to it, the dreams will naturally cease. This usually means an important challenge has been met. If you can see it in this way your own fear response can change to one of meeting rather than avoiding.
  • There are dreams of foretelling. Because dreams emerge from the timeless realm the incidents that occur in them can seem to be of a future time but in actuality where they come from all events live side-by-side, without past or future. But in real time you will experience them as prophetic.
  • There are archetypal dreams in which strong symbols or symbolic characters appear to teach something or to announce the way into a new part of our lives. These dreams can come to tell of a unique gift that has not yet been acknowledged or a way your gifts would like to be used in the world.
  • There are small dreams that appear just as snippets or vignettes. Sometimes these dreams can have a strong image or carry a voice like an announcer that will simply proclaim something, or you will see the writing of something in your mind. Images are very powerful and when you allow them to drop all the way in, they can bring you into a relationship not possible with words. It is said that it is important to pay attention to the dreams in which your name is called or ones where you see your name written down.
  • Similarly, there are ancient teachers who appear in dreams to teach or remind you of something you may need to know for this particular time in your lives. There can appear political figures or religious figures, sports heroes, actors and actresses…
  • There are warning dreams – often folks experience them as These dreams come to draw your attention to something happening in your life, usually an old pattern that has been wreaking havoc or perhaps an illness or other forms of disharmony.
  • Childhood dreams. We will cover this topic in a separate post but there is a certain quality to childhood dreams that make them especially important and tender to gently work with. Because children do not have sophisticated censoring devices they tend to experience their dreams very vividly, especially if the dream contains something that frightens them. There are many people who were plagued by frightening experiences in their childhood dreams who could not share them effectively with their parents and so misunderstood what was being given.
  • Lucid dreaming. We will cover this topic as well in a separate post. It is a type of dreaming, also called Active Imagination, where you go back into a dream-like trance state in order to work with the character or events that have appeared in a dream, in order to work creatively on the conscious level.
room with a view
room with a view

When looking at dreams and their characters with fresh eyes we can see the potentials that are trying to emerge in our lives, the fears and the beliefs that we are carrying and what kinds of changes might encourage a shift into a larger, more unfettered way being. We will look at dreams individually and ask questions that will unravel the dream.

Using the dream as correspondence between ourselves and our inner most self provides a vehicle for a deeply creative and resourceful life.  An unscripted and unconditioned life waiting to be discovered.

New Blog Series: The Importance of Dreams and How to Work With Them, Introduction

Entering a dream is like stepping down into the cave of the psyche where the contents are unknown to us.        

cave entrance
cave entrance

Before the work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, modern western culture in general did not pay close attention to dreams other then to note their usual or unusual appearance. By contrast indigenous cultures dating back to the beginning of recorded history considered dreams an important part of their everyday communication with the cosmos and depended on them to understand the things they needed to pay close attention to — the location of good hunting grounds or personal guidance or community issues. Dreams were understood to be direct messages from their true self, their over soul. In cooperation with their shaman or healer they would work with their dreams to understand them and to make changes that would affect their outward reality.

petroglyphs
petroglyphs

It was their belief that we are always dreaming, even during the day time, and that our nighttime dreams actually create the dream of our daytime but that both realities are fluid and can thus be affected and changed by interacting with and understanding our dreams. The dream was thus highly regarded and individuals from these cultures were expected to report their dreams to safeguard the well being of their community. Their link to the timeless realms kept them in close contact with the fluidity of life, and the ever-changing act of creation through the imagination.

Dreams bring playfulness and an inexpressible joy into out lives. There is humor and combinations of characters that show up to surprise and delight us. How many times are you in a dream and somehow you get from one place to another without effort. It is as if the dream world is constantly presenting possibility where our mind has learned obstacle, encouraging us to take the leaps our soul so wants to make, to contradict the sense of limitation and doom we carry around.

man with egg
man with egg

Even though it happens all the time that the intentions of a group or a strong individual will bring into being something that was not possible in the past, we have made a certain category for that type of thing but are careful not to assign any meaning to it for ourselves and what we are capable of. We tell ourselves that dreams are for nighttime and are not ‘for real’. In his Book, "In Search of Character and Calling", Jungian psychologist and author James Hillman suggests the possibility that our souls are always constructing scenery and challenges in our lives so that the acorn of our true identity and calling can come to fruition.

But modern culture has difficulty thinking this way. Thus, our culture is viewed by these ancient cultures as “The People of Time”.

We have projected our individual ability to imagine on ‘special’ individuals or institutions like television, the film industry, or ‘famous people’. It is no wonder that our children are chained to these programs out of hunger for their own imagination.

In "Awakening to the Spirit World, the Shamanic Path of Direct revelation",    Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman write:

“Perhaps the greatest enemy or obstacle to a man or woman of knowledge is the belief that one can be victimized by outside circumstances or trapped by fate.”

They call us into active participation with reality in order to see our lives not as hard solid masses of unchangeable facts but as the territory of explorers whose mission is to uncover the true nature of our reality and to play with it, through our dreams and personal visions. And so, dreams have continued to come to us. It is the use of dreams we have let go of. And it is the use and the understanding of how to work with dreams I would like to talk about.

broad daylight
broad daylight

The wonderful thing about a dream is that it is unrestrained; it is not polite or conscious of social status or constrained by the rules of the culture. It comes to us often unbidden and it is often filled with characters completely unlike ourselves.

Martin Prechtel, in "Secrets of the Talking Jaguar",  writes:

“Dreams are a direct, incorruptible expression of the mysterious nature of life and are considered to be free of human connivance.”

A dream provides an unfiltered hologram of the dynamics playing out in our lives, the fears and the beliefs that we are carrying as well as the potentials in our lives that have not yet come to fruition. And often the most difficult part of reflecting on a dream is getting over our bias for our own dream character to see what information the dream and the shadow characters are presenting to us!

In working with a dream we usually see that the dream is divided into scenes or stages:

  • The first stage usually presents the characters and a situation being introduced.
  • The second stage offers us an example of how a habitual dynamic is playing out and the emotions associated.
  • The third stage often offers us a surprise, an indication that some long held belief is being violated
  • The fourth stage often shows us the medicine or resolution to the habit in the dream. Many times the medicine is being offered through a shadow dream character that our dream character has not been able to see with appreciation or has labeled "bad."

This is the part of dream work that is the most interesting. We are shown our own shadow characters that we usually build a case against but who are actually trying to show us an aspect of ourselves that has been driven underground. For example, we might have a character in our dream that we label "lazy" or "good for nothing", while our own character is "hard working and stressed out". We might have a fear of being labeled ourselves as lazy and are over compensating by driving ourselves harshly. Or there might be a childhood wound of having been labeled lazy when really we were young, wide-eyed and open to our inner nature. When we are kids our families because of their own stresses and wounding often ignore our most sensitive qualities. And sometimes we adopt the opposite tendencies to deflect attention from a place of vulnerability.

To see a potential in a dream we need to be able to be tremendously honest with ourselves and work to find some quality in the other (shadow) characters that we can appreciate in some way.  We may ask ourselves "What do all of the other characters in the dream have in common unlike me?" Perhaps there will be a woman in the dream that we have labelled 'pushy'.  However when we look carefully at her we can see that she is not shy about the way she presents herself, something that in real life we have difficulty with.

Often the characters that play in our dreams trigger strong biases for or against and this too often prevents us initially from seeing another quality in them the dream is trying to bring us.

Dreams offer a vehicle to a deeply creative and resourceful existence; an unscripted and unconditioned life waiting to be discovered. When we work with the material of dreams we can invoke our deepest, innermost selves and through this conversation provoke change at the core level of our lives.

Because our dreams are completely unique to us as individuals they can suggest an entirely personal resolution to one’s inner and outer dilemmas. Dreams evolve with us.  They change as we change.

As this series develops we will be addressing specific dreams, take them apart and look at all the pieces and see how one can learn from them. I will ask readers to write in with their own dreams so we can have a live interaction to the dream material.

Stay tuned for part two — "How to remember your dreams", and more...