Dreams give us images and information from the unconscious meant to help us. The messages are unique to each person and represent a kind of inner guidance system – if we only know how to use it.
Dream worker Patti Tronolone says that in the dominant culture of our country, we generally ignore dreams, not understanding their rich resources for providing information we need to heal and realize our potential. She says that everyone dreams, but without the intention to remember the dreams and ponder their meaning, we give up an important connection to our inner lives and wisdom.
As people begin to understand the symbols of their dreams, it can have a profound effect on their lives. “When people realize that they are providing their own guidance, not a book or an outside source of wisdom, they see themselves as the incredible beings they are; that is such medicine for most people,” says Tronolone. “What I love the most about dreams is that they come through the person – their own guidance system.”
Her role is to help the person understand what the dream may be saying. Tronolone sees herself as an energetic bridge between the conscious and unconscious. When people see the information available in their dreams, they are usually receptive to understanding the messages.
“People often feel badly about what is happening for them. They are usually so relieved to hear there is a conversation going on that they can be part of,” she says.
We may feel guilty about our dreams or think they are unflattering or represent a dark part of ourselves we don’t like. In looking at our dreams, we may be able to glimpse a shadow side of ourselves and understand and accept it.
Tronolone says, “All the characters in our dreams are aspects of ourselves. When we understand this, we can see aspects that we have pushed away and have a better chance to retrieve them.”
She says that one of her clients dreamed of a very pushy colleague at work and judged this person harshly. As Tronolone and her client talked, it became clear that the client had disowned the part of herself that was ambitious. She thought she shouldn’t have ambitions and had pushed that side of herself away and censored herself.
“The world of dreams is not moral; it is clean of judgement,” says Tronolone. This world provides us with the opportunity to see situations clearly and ask ourselves questions, such as, “What is it my soul really wants to know here?” The images are highly symbolic and act like mirrors showing us what needs to be changed.
Some common symbols include driving, which can be a reference to the outward parts of our lives that we are manifesting in the world. Another frequent image is that of water, which may represent our essence. “When you are in the water, pay attention,” says Tronolone. She may ask the dreamer questions about the experience, such as, “How did the water feel? Was it light or dark?”
She cautions against jumping to conclusions about the meaning of the symbols in dreams or relying too much on dream dictionaries that give a narrow interpretation of the symbol. Instead, she recommends that people look up symbols online and see what resonates for them.
For example, she dreamed of pomegranates and found out they can stand for the divine feminine, which made sense in the context of the dream and her life. She says you can also ask for a follow-up dream or put yourself back in the dream in a semi-lucid state to further explore the world of the dream.
Tronolone acknowledges that dreams can be emotional and that the dream world can be a scary place. She says that understanding our dreams can allow us to see what part of ourselves is under pressure: “That is what creates the little monsters and causes us to feel shame and judge ourselves.” She points out that dreams can reveal the conflict of who we are conditioned to be and what the soul really wants. As we gain insights and grow, a shift can make itself known by what we are able to do in the world.
For Tronolone, dreams are like the nightly news, and she delights in helping the dreamer understand the true meaning of their messages. In a related part of her work, Tronolone helps her clients process what they learn through dreams or deal with emotional trauma through the use of energy work, known as Reiki. She says that grief and betrayal are the emotions that bring people to see her most often.
Tronolone found out about Reiki when she hit a rough patch in her own life. She spoke to a friend, who was a Catholic priest in New York, about her troubles. He sent Reiki long distance to her in Baltimore. She says, “I had a powerful experience and became totally clear on the issue that had been troubling me.”
This event woke up an immediate desire in her to do this kind of work. She studied Reiki further and became a Reiki Master. She began using Reiki with her children, but waited until later in her life to work with other people. She says, “Something told me that I needed to become a clearer channel.”
With greater life experience and lots of Reiki practice behind her, she has been focusing on offering Reiki to others in the last six years.
Reiki is a Japanese method of relaxation and moving life force energy through the body to help clear blockages in the energy system, known as chakras. There are seven main chakra centers and thousands of smaller ones.
Tronolone says the idea is that these centers are supposed to be turning. There is a blockage if they are not turning. If those blockages are removed using energy work, there can be a dramatic opening of the system.
“The body reveals everything it is holding,” says Tronolone. She is highly sensitivity to the movement of energy in body, where it is stuck, fluid, or wanting to say something. She can feel pain in her own body when she has her hands on someone.
“I get a physical signal. If an area has been jammed up, it will start releasing and a lot of heat will come off the body through my body and out the top of my head – like a chimney. It is a really good sign something that has been stuck is on the move,” she says.
During a Reiki session, one of her clients felt his heart open in a major way for the first time in his life, causing him to cry. Another client felt the top of his head, the location of the crown chakra, open up – like a “lid coming off.” It was a huge shakeup for him and showed him a whole beautiful world that he had not known existed.
Tronolone says, “We rely on the energy of the cosmos to flow through us; that is what makes us healthy. When opening of blockages occur, all of the sudden we have 100 watts instead of 10. Energy gives you power and increases your connection to everything that is alive.”
Tronolone came to Taos in 2004 to meet her daughter’s fiancé in Lama. She bought a piece of land and was living here a year later. She says the vast openness of Taos makes it a good place to do the work of self-exploration and healing.
“There is not interference here; everything is open. People wake up here,” she says.
Dream work and Reiki can function well together. Some people come in after an emotional dream to understand it better. Tronolone says, “The dream can shake us up until we take in the messages of the dream.” After we understand the message, energy work can help us integrate it and heal.
“If you see an aspect of yourself in a dream that you don’t like, rather than have that eat away at you, energy work can open the system up to have that be OK; to see and accept it as an aspect of the self,” she notes.
With dream and energy work, we can learn about our inner wisdom and release blockages.
Insights may reveal themselves over time – but there will always be mystery.
Some of this mystery is reflected in Tronolone’s art. Her paintings have a dreamy quality and, in fact, she often paints images that come from dreams. Recently, a recurring dream involved three people in a pool – and that is what she has been painting.
According to Tronolone, “Everything in our lives is conspiring to heal us: the reactions we get from people, our dreams, what is going on in our bank account or happening in relationships. All of our fears are there, so we have a bigger clue as to what is trying to change. So we will question information – why is this happening? If our lenses start to change focus, we can feel like we are part of a loving cosmos trying to open us up. It may look like a door getting slammed, but it is just information. For me, this is the biggest insight in my life over the last few years. There are no special areas. Our whole life is an arena for healing.”
Many thanks to Joan Livingston, editor for the Taos News for suggesting the article, to Cindy Brown, freelance writer for the Taos News whose interview and article captured the essence of my work, and to Katherine Egli for her photography.