Hearing One's Name Called

In a dream as in real life it is known that we must pay attention when we hear our name called, see our name written, or have the option to sign our name. Something important is taking place that requires our signature.   In indigenous and ancient cultures, to know the name of a thing or a person gives you power over it.  In other rites of passage, for example, in the sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic tradition, we choose a new name to represent the most Real part of us.  In native traditions the elders or tribe members come to name a person for the attributes that mark them in the most real way.

Thus names have significance.

alignment with the sun

alignment with the sun

May 26, 2008 Awakened at 3:33am

I dream I am invited to go on this canoe trip on the Florida coast or some similar coast by these two guys, whom I did a shorter trip with once before. They have emailed me and sent maps. One of the guys is Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, a Sufi sheik whose writing and presence have a deep affect on me in real life. I stop by to say I am interested. They are talking it up and asking me if I am truly interested. The more they talk about it the more interested I become. I ask them how much it will cost and they tell me about 3800 dollars. I groan and realize I am doing something right before this that will cost about 1000 dollars and realize this is all of my money and I then realize I will probably be moving my home around the same time. But I still want to do it and I wonder what life will do to help with the money and then realize “I have all the money I need for the trip.” That somewhat amuses me in the dream because I hear the words "I have everything I need." They are like a soothing balm. In the emails from the men there are maps and I think I get 4 urgent emails one right after another, the last one is asking me the spelling of my name. I laugh because he, LVL, has already written my name our on the first email which I scroll up to look at and it is spelled perfectly. PATTI TRONOLONE— it is written in capital letters and centered at the top of the page. When I am there with LVL and the other man and we are talking in person, I am envisioning the trip so vividly I even see myself getting my hair cut at one of the coastal stops. Then I realize this is going to be longer than 2 weeks. I am so interested and I realize I have never given myself to anything like this before. It is a mystery and the maps are full color outlining the beautiful fractal edges of the coastline up and down and on all sides of this place. I feel ready to say yes to them and then I wake up.

Seeing one’s name written in a dream has a very interesting and powerful effect. In a way, unlike other dream experiences, you know that something in this dream is coming so particularly for you, it is an indescribable closeness and the feeling of attention rises without having to do anything consciously about it. The dream is focused on my interest and commitment to pay everything that I currently have in order to take this trip. It is a dream asking me for a commitment, not out of extra resources which could be seen as an amusement, but from my only resources. It doesn’t hide the fact that I will be giving everything over in order to take this trip. And then I “see” the trip as if it has already taken place, as if it is a completion of a prior knowledge. I see my hair being cut, often symbolic of the personality getting shorn, and I see the beauty and intricacy of the shoreline, as I canoe around every inch of its fractal edge. I am being shown that I will consent to be on a voyage that takes into account every nuance of the life journey and be made conscious of it.

January 16, 2009

I dream I am in a prison with many people, men and women. It is known that some of us are going to be freed soon. Perhaps in the next day. There is a woman who had a child secretly while she was there and she is trying to conceal the baby during her release. And there is a sort of distancing from her like we are stepping back from our attachment to her, except for this guy. He doesn’t seem to know or he is acting as if he doesn’t, meaning he has not withheld any loving attention from her. Everyone else seems to know that she will be found out and that she and the baby will have to disappear, as we recall another woman in the past had done. The guy seems to be very fond of her-they are both from Brazil and are planning to meet up afterward. The woman is very loving and singing to her baby. The man is passing around a paper to those of us that are leaving to put our contact info on it. I think to myself that he will be sad if the woman and child disappear, as he is clearly so fond of them. On the sheet where I am to sign there is just a P with a check sign next to it. I sign my name and when I get to the last 3 letters I write the wrong letters and I have to correct it with quotation marks like this:

Patti Tronoldhe“one”. On seeing the word “One” as part of my name, I wake up.

they each saw something different

they each saw something different

It is our mind in our lives, which imprisons most of us— how we see ourselves, how we see others and the world. This dream involves seeing that one’s time in prison is coming to an end.  In this particular prison a woman has had a baby. So we see that even in prison or perhaps especially in prison the generative and life giving forces are still at work! And she is a very loving and generous mother. The group-thinking in the prison, according to my dream character, is that this makes her dangerous, even though she has kept the object of her love a secret. And everyone, except for the man who truly loves her, creates a little distance from her. "We" have seen at least one other like her and she has disappeared. In dream language this is the preview of awakening being painted for you. A woman, who has given birth to love within and despite the confines of a prison existence becomes free. And she is loved beyond any binding of fear or attempts to distance from her.

And then my dream character is required within the dream to sign her own name, before she, too, is freed, because it is desired for continual contact. Initially, my dream character signs her name incorrectly, she does not see the correct ending to her name, in a sense from not paying attention, but in reality she does not know who and what she is.  So in fact she she gets to see that she has misnamed herself and the dream allows her cross out the misspelling and sign again. And then she sees the word “one” that is the true ending of her own name and upon seeing it she wakes up.

When we find out who and what we really are and that we are truly part of something that binds all of us together as one fabric, and that one fabric is made from the energy and cosmic force of Love, we wake up from our prison of isolation and we are freed.



Eating Elephant and Facing the Impossible

I would like to present two dreams. Both dreams employ a kind of foretelling quality. These dreams stop the mind from its usual ability to make sense of things and grounds one in the immediacy of another reality. Because in order to get a sense of the dreams you must inhabit a greater presence. The point is not always to understand some literal explanation of a dream but to embody the reality that is offered in the dream, to value it enough to try it on. The first dream came shortly after I moved back to Taos New Mexico in 2007. The dream arrived in the night of Christmas Eve, an auspicious time for such a startling dream.



December 24, 2007 Facing the impossible

I dream I am with an older woman and man who are a couple and a young child. We are out in nature having a good time together. Then we come back to the home of this family. The young girl and I are playing in her room. She lays down on top of me naked face to face. I can feel all my sexual energy arise thru my body. It is incredibly delicate, sensual and sweet. And very subtle. She and I  kiss and stay in that position. Then I prepare to leave and the mother and the father bring me home in their car.

At home I am in my house. This house was new from the one I previously lived in . And with me in the house lives a young boy – an adolescent. He is using the dryer and that annoys me and I think it is because I have a lot of laundry to do as well, but in reality I carry a burden. In the dream I know that I am going to have to deal with an enormous task—one I have done before, and I am facing this task with much dread. There is a sense that because I did it once before, I know all the aspects of it and the fact of these aspects is weighing heavily on me.

My horse, which is in the house, downstairs, is going to die and I have to skin the horse and remove the head by myself and carry it upstairs. The older couple has told me it will be all okay but I am feeling overwhelmed by the task and feel strongly that I need help to do it. The young man in the house –they have told me to get his help and I say, “He is useless.” I am left alone to my task. I wake up.

This dream filled me with a sense of foreboding because there is no getting around the fact of the enormous task. A task that filled me with a kind of horror that such a thing would be my responsibility.  So all sorts of bells went off upon waking--outrage, disbelief and fear.  That a reality like this was on my plate.  What did it mean and why had it shown up now? There is no explanation in the dream to make the task understandable and that adds to its sense of magnitude.

Interestingly the dream starts out with an encounter, a transmission so to speak, with Innocence, Eros and Guidance. We often assign innocence to childhood and forget about it as we grow older.  But I have come to see innocence as a quality of the soul--the original and indelible condition of being a human being. The qualities of the soul are interwoven, one cannot take away one without ripping in half another. Eros is the generative life force in a human being’s existence. John O'Donohue has written beautifully and profoundly in his book, "Anam Cara", about the sacred nature of Eros. He says, "that the body is the Angel of the soul, that the body is our only true home on earth."  He goes on to say,  "that the senses are the thresholds of the soul—to be sensual or sensuous is to be in the presence of your own soul."  He quotes Wordsworth who wrote in his respect for the senses, "Pleasure is the tribute we owe to our dignity as human beings."

These are the gifts silently acknowledged by my dream character as the unusual and touching experiences they were. These gifts from the child became conscious through my experience of her and thus became part of the tool kit with which I was to face the task I was going home to do. And the fact is that I had somehow done it all before. And in that way my dream character is free of illusion. But she is focused on the difficulty she knows is ahead of her. In the greater Reality, the home of the unconscious, there is no time. Everything we have done and will do in our lives already exists there. It is the occupying of time that makes things arduous. So in a way when we pierce time and draw from the realm of complete Possibility we gather ourselves anew.  This dream was in a way a heralding and a summoning of strength for a task that was about to begin—an undertaking both sobering and daunting but ultimately liberating.

The hidden character is the horse. He is dying. It seems that he must. When I think of a horse I think of power. So for the sake of the dream I can say that the vehicle of my power that I have known up until now is dying…and in the ritual of its dying I have to cut off its head, the egoic center, and skin it, making it completely vulnerable to life and carry it up from downstairs. There is a sense of the “descent” necessary to do this task and a bringing it up into the light of day to complete it.

The character of the young boy, the adolescent, in whom I place not a shred of appreciation, is in fact the unknown gem the older couple advises me to obtain help from. When you consider an adolescent and what they are capable of it is surprising that our culture does not find more ways to include their contributions to our society. They have no ambition outside of being alive; they are honest, completely self-involved and available to the new. They are strong, and somewhat fearless, and are willing in most regards to try most anything. In working with this dream I saw that I needed to locate these characteristics within myself, to rally in myself Innocence, Eros and adolescent fearlessness and strength. To find my inner resourcefulness and hutzpah to undertake this next chapter in my life. The dream alerted me to be ready for the impossible.

In reality this chapter of my life has been an 8-year passage into my unconscious.  Once again I quote John O'Donohue:  "The unconscious is a powerful and continuous presence.  Every life lives out of and struggles with this inner night, which casts its challenging and fecund shadow over everything we do and think and feel...This work of freedom is slow ad unpredictable; yet it is precisely at this threshold that each individual is the custodian and subject of their own transfiguration."

It was and has been indeed a formidable but very worthwhile undertaking. It has changed me; it has changed my life from the inside out.

This next dream seems to occupy the complete other end of the spectrum.

July 31, 2010 Eating Elephant

In my dream I am in a beautiful city park somewhere. Apparently, at this time, it is known by everyone that the world has run out of food and water and we are being asked to eat elephant. I feel no surprise in the dream at this and in fact I am laughing and joking with someone and saying, "I cannot possibly eat another plate of elephant”. There were all these tubs of elephant meat lying around the park. I didn’t feel hungry. The groundskeeper was a very matter-of-fact guy –he just did his work and didn’t seem affected by anything outside himself. I enjoyed his way of being and I trusted him. I am traveling via an electric pushcart that is attached to the back of me. It can go in all directions including up and down stairs. End of dream.

Here in this dream we are presented with what should have been the worst of all possible scenarios... something has happened to make it possible we no longer eat food and drink water as we have in our known histories. It has the feel of the future in the dream. A potential is making itself known. We are being nourished by elephant. Once again we have an animal coming that’s uniquely symbolic. When I think about the elephant I am first struck by its size, its power and its intelligence. The elephant is the most powerful animal in the world, it communicates over long distances, it is aware of its family and tribe and uses its memory to lead its own and other animal species along pathways to hidden water supplies. In Hindu astrology he is Ganesh, a Divine being capable of removing any obstacle, a Being of great wisdom.

In this dream the elephant has become the sole source of nourishment for the world. As I step into these qualities the elephant has brought up in me I have to ask myself the question– how would it be to live my life this way, and for this to be the sole way in which I draw nourishment and what would it look like for the world to do this, what things would change?

The park groundskeeper is my model of how to work with such an extreme change. He does not make a big deal out of anything. He goes about his work, he is pleasant and uncomplaining and not affected by outside circumstances. In the dream I travel easily in all directions aided by an electric cart attached to my back, my hands are free.  It is a dream of great mystery, it leaves a scent in the air of jewels to mine.

Like the first dream, this dream holds these mysterious elements – the tools I need to embody, to nourish myself in these times of great change. Power, wisdom, strength, remembering, compassion for all the species of Earth, making clear the path, flexibility, and the ability to move creatively in any direction.

This dream encouraged me to read a book called "Elephantoms" by distinguished biologist and naturalist, Lyall Watson.  His autobiographical book followed his life long passion for elephants, his first original unexplainable encounter with one, their own fate in his native land of South Africa,  and what he came to learn from them.  There is an amazing scene at the end of this book where he witnesses one of the last known elephants of his region in a cordoned off reserve park in South Africa communicating with a whale.

“Do everything from love, especially the things you are afraid of.”

Facing Yourself Amidst Conflict and Deceit

The Uncorrupted Lens of the Dream

There are so many times in life that we are faced with a situation whose resolution is inscrutable, where we cannot see how the circumstances are ever going to change or resolve. When we feel locked into our experience and our personal forecast and have begun to believe in a non-resolution. These are the times I have found dreams to be not only a lucky visitor, but also a creative, life charged voice in the wilderness.

Some years ago I was in a professional relationship and friendship to an admired mentor. I was in service to his work at the time and we were facing an obstacle that didn’t seem to be able to go anywhere. We were working closely together and we had hit a complete impasse in communication. Blame was beginning to lift its ugly head. Independently, before we were to meet to discuss this, I asked for a dream about it and its resolution. This is the dream I received:

2009Two Noblemen

I aman observer.There are two noblemen, from a time long ago, dressed beautifully in cloaks and royal clothing from their time. One man is fair with reddish hair and the other one less fair with dark hair. They are walking together, side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder. They are stopped on their path before a bridge. The fair-haired nobleman says, “There’s been a breach!”

The dark haired nobleman says, while walking over the bridge,

“ Breach? Breach? There is no breach…there is only this way we have of being together, over and over, again and again, forever and ever.”    

End of dream.

Two men stopped on their path with a bridge in front of them. First an issue of the accusation. Then one of the noblemen crosses the bridge while saying that this thing that is made in accusation does not actually exist. What a radical idea to absorb in the midst of a shut down. This dream and the eternal words over and over, again and again, forever and ever, spoke the essential core of what we are always doing in each other’s lives, and invoked a sense of the prayerful potential in all of our relationships. That it is our being together and what it grows in us, challenges in us, what we move in opposition to and eventually evolve through. Hearing the words of the dream, denying that there was this thing called a rift, opened the impasse, healed the discord between us, within us and in real time we were able to go on, on level ground, taken under wing and tutored by Wisdom.

Wisdom, if it is real does not shrink with time or the number of times spoken. I have shared this dream many times since, and it always calls me to my Self and to the fact that I am solely responsible for my experiences.


There are other inner conflicts that keep us living in delusion. We are there because our small self feels it can live invisibly, and that in the end things don’t really matter. This is called living a lie, and to face it is one of the hardest things we can do. And also the most liberating.

What we usually don’t see is what the lie is keeping us from. This dream came unbidden.

2012   Completing the Buddha Weaving

I dream I am in a painting class. The Master is looking at a collage/painting that I have made, which I am in the process of over-working but I say it is not finished to hide the fact it is not coming from my heart. He asks me the title. Someone whispers a possible answer”2 something standing”. I let someone else title it for me and when I say it out loud it lands with a thud. I feel like a fake. I don’t really like what I’ve made, and don’t know how to talk about it. To cover up my confusion I say finally ‘’”I don’t think it’s done”. At that the Master sort of brushes it as if to say ‘never mind that’ and brings out from behind him a very, very large black tapestry-like scroll made from a wool fabric with the beginnings of a needlework on it. It is exquisite, the beginnings of a Buddha’s head with flowers around it. The Master says,“This is what is unfinished”.

I am completely astounded and confounded simultaneously because I don’t remember ever beginning the weaving of this tapestry — it looks too beautiful and too perfectly done to be something I made. But the Master looks fiercely into my eyes and tells me this is in fact mine and it CAN be completed. I take the weaving from him and begin to draw the needle that is left there through to make a stitch  and I see immediately how much attention it will take to complete this and how I feel so governed by time, how I don’t ever feel as if I have enough time and this belief is ruling me deep in my bones. the dream continues...

Later that evening I am still with the Master who has asked me a few questions. We are sitting in a living room by a wood stove and another student, older than I am is sitting with us hearing my responses to the questions. I have not responded honestly to him, I have not seen it to be of importance to do that, and I want to protect an image of myself. He in fact asked me if I had smoked pot the day before and I replied “no”. The other student is carrying an iron pot into the room and he bangs it down in front of me and says, “How can you lie in your own living room?” I am a bit dumbfounded and say weakly, “am I supposed to tell the truth all the time?” The mentor says, “YES”. In the dream, I begin thinking of the last couple of days (in the dream) and all the hiding out that went on because of fear of exposing myself to An unknown force, living my life constantly in self-defense. Not seeing that the truth is what I am given, what I actually possess and have within me to give, no matter what the circumstances. Even in the most uncomfortable situations when the only apparent truth might be the revealing of my own discomfort.

I wake up but am lying in the dark thinking of all the ways I am lying to the “Master", not taking His Reality to heart, playing it safe, self-protecting. It is a hard look at myself and I feel flattened by the truth of it. And I feel awed and mystified that I was honorable enough to have begun this beautiful weaving but somehow I had laid it aside over time and through survival strategies had begun to lie to myself. And more importantly realizing I had not embodied the significance for those lies to matter. And that the importance of time, the fear of it, goose stepping life, had overshadowed the importance of what I was becoming. I laid there for a few hours and without effort different aspects of my life came to my mind.   Lies don’t have to be about stealing or crimes, as we would normally think of them. Lies can be about who I take myself to be, what is my code, and what kind of life is in integrity with who I am? In the midst of this review, without any impulse of my own, I felt my being fall backward and begin to fall into Eternity, a nothingness I am at a loss to describe. In it I lose my sense of individuality and smallness and begin to merge with this enormous luminous field. And then just as suddenly, I am ‘brought back’. I feel so grateful and completely surprised to have been given such a gift at the moment of facing the least flattering aspects of myself. It is then I realize in a new way that the truth does indeed set you free. That my hiding out in life,  was a lie in the face of this immersion in Reality. And the life I was meant to live was on the other side of seeing these lies in myself and stepping up to meet them.

bless this cup
bless this cup

This is the cup I want to drink from for the rest of my life.

This is the potion continually won through the excruciatingly honest inward glance.

This is the beggar freed by his own begging cup.

This is the crucible of being a real human being.

Blessed Be!


Your Favorite Dream Character–YOU!

Let's face it – your favorite dream character is always YOU. It is easy to think that our dreams are proof that everyone who bugs us in real life really is to blame. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is mainly that we are so used to our own attitudes and beliefs we often take for granted that we are right in our dreams or righteous in our opinion or on the winning side.

And although there are exceptions to every rule, the telling sign is always “how free from attitude is our dream character, how generous and expansive?” 

Because if we are smug or self-congratulatory or pointing a finger, you can be sure there is some shadow playing out that is yelling for our attention.  These kinds of polarizations are indications that there is something below the surface about to be revealed. So it is not just the content of dreams to pay close attention to but the feeling states they offer – they are suggestions often of how we are in the world or another way to Be in the world.

When I went to Italy for the first time, a dear friend and fellow traveler there told me that the rule of thumb to follow when in Italy was to find a way whenever possible to get up as high as I could so I could see everything.  That is the rule of thumb I propose in looking at a dream, taking the bird's eye view, and in doing so enabling the possibility to see that our biases might not be true.

the visit
the visit

Allowing ourselves to see our hidden aspects in the other characters will break the dream wide open.  As in real life, the folks who bug us the most are expressing themselves in a way that we don't approve of, we often adopt even a moral stamp to our judgment of them but meanwhile a creative part of our self-expression is getting suppressed. So it Bothers us. Our dreams often reveal the why. They set us up to see the typical way we respond to conflict, intimacy and relationship in the world. They show us how our judgments of others are revealing an aspect of us we are afraid to expose.

It takes a careful climbing back into the dream to feel into each aspect.

Recently I had a dream that illustrates the way it can feel inside of the dream character, of being the one who feels so strongly s/he is RIGHT, even though lurking in the rightness is a distorted sense of survival.

I dream I am a man in a house at night with my business partner who was a woman, and her husband. She is a photographer and that is our business together.  There is something I wish to do and my partner and her husband do not want me to do it and will not go along with my plan. I feel so compelled to do it, there is a sense of survival in it, that I decide to sneak out of the house into the pitch black of night and get in my truck and drive off to do “it”. As I am planning this out in my head and am about to leave I call someone on the phone to let 'him' know what I am doing and I stay on the phone with him while I am leaving the house. I am outside in the black of night, hurrying to my truck, it is in a rural setting – grass, trees, nature all around. I am completely blind as I am moving quickly, when suddenly Nature turns on all the lights!  It is like the bright light of day is suddenly shining down on me and I look around... and there right next to me, pursuing me, are my partner and her husband.  My partner's husband says to me, "Have you thought about what you will do when 'she' (my business partner, the photographer) is no longer there?" I realize they have come to ask me this question, not to restrain me. I turn and look toward my car; I am still on the phone, and then I wake up from the dream.

My business partner — she is the photographer – her gift is to capture images. She is the inner feminine, the artist. She is with her husband – a sacred partnership. He IS wherever she IS. I ask myself what is the difference between a business relationship and a marriage. A marriage is a sacred contract and a public celebration of a bond. In a business partnership I see there is a way you can have a built in right to gain something without necessarily having a sacred bond. Their marriage partnership represents something important that they are showing to me that I have left out – about how to honor my own relationship with my inner feminine, the artist. There is potential not just to use her for her gifts but also to be always in sacred alignment with her and to have her agreement for everything I am doing. To always Be where she is.

In the dream I am feeling insistent on the need to do something I feel both obligated and driven to do. But in order for me to go through with it I must run away, isolate myself from my partner, which is a clue that it is out of balance with who I am. And I am so uncomfortable with the consequence of this I am on the phone, in close connection to a God-Self voice, telling Him my every move. Another clue that the plan I am about to carry out is questioning the natural order. I leave in the pitch black of night and flee to my truck. I can’t see a thing – I am totally blind. Then Nature in complete service to my Highest self, turns on the house lights! Pay close attention-this is like the loudspeaker saying listen to this! And my partner’s husband, the true masculine asks me the question, “Have you thought about what you will do when SHE is not there?” and that question ‘wakes me up from the dream’.

I felt deeply the overriding question “Have you considered all the ways your life will be different without your feminine side in alignment with your every move?” I saw immediately its relevance to a current situation of some life choices I was about to make in a particular from of mind, and also an old habit—the imposition of either/or when I was feeling trapped in survival mode. Again not the actual content is in question first--but the feeling state which will definitely effect the content of any manifestation, for sure. 

So I get to see the rightful place of the masculine – asking the one question that will put me back in alignment with my inner Goddess, my inner Feminine, the one who captures the images, the virtual Queen of the Arts within me. And from there as both of the forces integrate inside me I could ask what was rightful action in response to the issue I was experiencing in my life.

Although there are times our dreams are giving us literal advice, avenues to follow, we must use our common sense...a dream would not tell us for instance to go jump off a high building.  But they could tell us to come down out of our minds and make contact with a more ground place, or experience a freedom like flight in some arena in our lives. So make a lot of room around you when you turn on the movie projector and take note of who is in the audience.  Most likely they are going to be your new best friends.


The Healing Power of Images

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


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


Painting the Inner World

Painting the Inner World: A Creative Response to DreamsThe most powerful way to inhabit a dream is to bring it into this world by painting it... singing it... building it... sculpting it... writing it.   Dream images are often so richly otherworldly, so ultimately creative, it is no wonder we are driven to reenact them in some way. In dreams we find "machines that we make to do unusual things—an espresso maker that one carries like a back pack that only needs water", "architectural plans for the construction of water"…they sound so weird and yet in our dreams we are intent and unquestioning on being their creators.

For the next few posts I will feature the art and ideas of several artists who use their dreams as the subject of their inner experiences from which to create art and to learn and how they have used the painting of their inner world of dreams as a window into their own process and soul.

Hank Brussselback is a painter and sculptor and accomplished builder living in Taos, New Mexico. His website where you can see his work and learn more about him is: www.bufflecake.com.

russian lesson_
russian lesson_

"The Russian Lesson", —HANK BRUSSELBACK

I interviewed Hank in his studio on September 14th on the subject of his work from dreams.

P: Hank, how did you come to start painting your dreams?

H: When I was in grad school I was painting paintings of my son and myself and the conflicts we were having at the time as a way to process them. At this time in my life I was heavily involved in being a political activist. A friend noticed that my paintings did not reflect my corresponding passion for political activism and questioned why I was painting my personal world when my true passion was social activism. At the time I strongly disagreed with him but shortly afterwards I began to paint political paintings.

And then a few years ago my spiritual mentor put a big question mark on my political activism and what was actually driving it…I started thinking about the self-righteousness of my thinking, all the positions I found myself taking and as I uncovered what was underneath it, it began to fall away. At the same time I was doing a lot of dream journaling and I began to notice that there is kind of subtlety there that could really only be found in dreams. So for the past few years I have been developing this work of painting my dreams.

P: Hank, when you begin to paint your dream, do you paint it as you saw it or is it a feeling representation of how you experienced it?

H: I begin the painting by painting it as I saw it in the dream but the process of painting has its own will. The dream I want to talk to you about— is called "The Balloon Dream"

balloon dream
balloon dream

What was exciting about this was when I initially dreamt it I had this interesting perspective that dreams can give, and the perspective was floating up in a balloon and watching the behavior of someone I perceived to be a particularly recklessly cocky person who was riding a motorcycle down an alley and crashing into a building and jumping up and getting back on the bike and going another 50 feet and running into a tree… so my immediate reaction which is typical for me was some kind of hostility toward this person for risking other peoples lives …for being flagrant, a scofflaw. When I painted it I painted in many of his crash positions and I saw that this person, rather than being some kind of braggart or show off that he could do these things and jump up and keep doing them and enjoying the process, was rather actually really struggling and I hadn’t seen the struggle and the determination and the courage that he was showing. It was very powerful to face an awareness like this because of how many strongly held beliefs it contradicted.

Painting it helped me to see all those things and in painting it helped me to put it into a different context… then it seemed like this was also about the painting process itself. The most challenging thing about painting this painting for me was painting it in perspective, painting down on buildings and straight over to the balloon people and straight down to the motorcyclist crashing and so the painting and the dream helped me to have a different perspective on this person who was willing to risk even perhaps failing. And like in my experience of painting, not really knowing where he’s going because the motorcycle is telling him where he’s going… I saw all of that in the painting of the dream.

balloon dream detail
balloon dream detail

This is what it feels like to paint a narrative that is going somewhere without being sure where. And finally I realized this character who was taking all these chances and getting knocked around quite affectively was appreciating the motorcycle and what it was offering to him—again like so many times the dream showed me my first thought, my instant judgment put me in a righteous place and put this person in some sort of undeveloped childish foolish place. And as I worked with the painting I was able to see I could be this childlike foolish person and that there is a very exciting thing about that which makes me so grateful for having [the vehicle-] the motorcycle …that without it there would be a lot of passion lost.

P: How do you feel about sharing these dreams with people that you either know or don’t know?

H: It feels like it’s a lot like making art in general which for me is that I am trying to get it as close to my own personal truth as I can and the better I can do that the more it will have a universal impact… its really about everybody. It [painting my dreams] would be embarrassing if it weren’t just human and I would want to hide it if I didn’t see that it is what everybody does.

P: What is the response of other people to your work on dreams?

H: There’s a full range— I think that the work demands a lot from the viewer— that they have to climb in to see it. They might not care for the painting style, or the colors and they may just glance over it. And a fair number of people come in with a curiosity and wonder — they see that I’m in this lair that’s full of paintings …Or say,  “wow there’s sure a lot of colors here” and for those folks that is often as far as they want to go. Some people are used to a gentler art… But then there are a handful of people who are really excited about a kind of art that they haven’t seen … which is narrative and figurative and let’s say for some people it seems really gutsy, juicy and full of human emotion. And for me, I think that’s what expressionism is really about.

P: In the world of writers there’s a group that uses their memories as their subject matter to write from because they are familiar and seemingly inexhaustible. I wondered if that aspect appealed to you in any way or if it’s just a by-product?

H: Well that’s sort of wrapped into dreams …AND for me it seems like that’s the only legitimate source I have to work from. [Otherwise]…It would flip over into a different kind of art— an intellectual conceptual thing (if I worked without the dreams). I went to a high school that was pushing me very hard toward left-brained intellectual expertise, but pretty much ever since I stopped teaching school I pushed my self in the opposite direction.

P: How has the painting of your dreams changed your work and changed your life?

H: It’s added compassion and some kind of gusto for life that doesn’t need to be protected, an open-heartedness …

And it’s been a way to get past that giant stumbling block in making art —all those little voices that say, “ why do I bother…the masters have all done everything better than I could do and its all been done…—if I listened to those voices they would rob me of “my motorcycle” which would be a real pity. Because it opens me up, deepens my connection to the world.

It’s a little bridge into the magic world of paint and pushing colors around. I don’t know what paintings are going to give me or anybody else at all. [But}It exposes my humanness.

My hope is that people would look at it and realize that they have dreams or similar feelings inside themselves.

P: Do you think it is a level of intimacy that a lot of people are looking for that your work touches in them?

H: I think so…. I think that if I have enough nerve to express these things then that’s enough mileage to get me thru any negative judgments I might experience in my life. Laughter.

P: Thank you, Hank, for contributing to this series.  I have really enjoyed our conversation and I wish you the best wish for any creative "Carry on!"

The featured image at top of page is "Falling House", —HANK BRUSSELBACK

Crack the Code of Your Dreams

Crack the Code of Your Dreams – Taking Notes That Will Reveal the Heart of Your Dream“The basic function of dreams is to express the unconscious.”


So you receive your dream, you have written it down as you experienced it without interpreting it. You have noted your feelings in your dream—

  • About the place you are in
  • Your feeling response to other dream characters,
  • To a situation,
  • To yourself.

Feelings like agitation, pride, peace, annoyance, anger, judgmentalism, hesitation, surprise, distrust, delight, innocence, court room mentality, wrong/right thinking, blame, sadness, grief, humility, despair, Love, righteousness, worthlessness, calm, controlling, humorous, playful, confused, trusting, arrogance…As much as possible be able to say exactly what you felt as you go along.

Part of us lives in our conscious mind, and our complementary quality lives hidden in the unconscious…They may appear to be enemies– yet they are in reality in the process of making a synthesis." —ROBERT A. JOHNSON

things of value
things of value

The dream is made up of male characters and female characters and some characters that seem to go back and forth in their sex.

If you look at your dream characters as each being an aspect of yourself, you will see these relative characteristics playing out in the shadows or openly, in your life.

We all carry these characteristics. It is important to mention here that shadow does not mean anything negative. A shadow character is simply a part of us that has been pushed underground and in doing so can make mischief in our everyday life, not because it is bad but because it is not acknowledged. Most of these shadow lives contain a huge amount of potential that our lives need to fully manifest their purpose. It is often wounds or childhood circumstances that drive aspects of ourselves underground. An early misconception formed that we have taken on.

Our dreams are comprised of many aspects:

  • Males tend to portray the thinking analytical rational deciding mind
  • Females tend to portray emotions and understanding, a feeling logic, a sensing of the whole.
  • There are often certain figures in our dreams who stand out and feel very whole and full of guidance-these are our soul guides coming forward to offer guidance and counsel. Jung referred to these as the anima and
  • Symbols will appear like a circle or a mandala or a square, an animal
  • Numbers will appear in dreams and these also have significance. As well as the ages or the number of years ago you were in the place in the dream. These are the clues left in the landscape to uncover that will begin to put together the picture of the dream.

ASSOCIATIONS provide the foundation for understanding a dream. Associations spring out of our unconscious in response to dream images.

Take each scene and notice the place they have occurred and any associations you might have with that place. For example: a town you grew up in, an old house, something from the past, or a new place, someplace you have never been before. If it is in an old house that you formerly occupied the dream maybe coming for you to recover something or show you something that is still operating from that time or a new appreciation for something difficult from the past. Writing down your associations with the houses and cities you are in can further embellish your knowledge of your feeling state and let you see what you might be still carrying from the past. Perhaps it is a mythical kind of place or barely descriptive at all. But you still will have feelings about where you are and these will fill out your associations. Take nothing for granted.

Archetypal dreams often take you to ancient or extraordinary places—bigger or smaller than life…talking animals, royalty, heroic figures…You can research the source of these figures and symbols that come—the Internet is a great research tool for this, rather than a dream dictionary that will give you one set meaning.

In the same way notice the people, are they familiar to you, are they couples, what are they like? Do not censor how you feel about them, write down what their characters evoke. EVEN IF IT IS EMBARRASSING.

Don’t daisy chain your associations by turning your associations into a story and don’t allow your associations to take you away from the dream itself because not all associations will be true in their importance to the dream. Keep them as distinct entities in themselves. Just write them down in a list. You are looking for one that comes that will ‘click’ the dream more into place. One that carries energy in it.

Allow the images that may have presented themselves in the dream to fully drop in. Is it an animal or a symbol? What does it bring up in you, is it a part of your waking life in any way or have you seen it before, do you have any history with the image… Begin to make associative meanings to the images. Again the Internet can be a great resource for this. For example you could receive the image of a circle or a rock or a bee or a shape.

I once had a dream image that came that was simply a large boulder that was sitting on the trunk of my car. When I looked at it what came immediately to me was that I was carrying something large and heavy from the past that I couldn’t see directly in front of me. This dream image led to a big revelation in my life.

In this way write down any associations you might have to the image, or anything it reminds you of and again how it makes you feel. Do not go to the dream dictionary that says that such and such means this or that. This will dilute the power of the image that often carries much of the meaning of the dream like an acorn carrying the totality of the tree within it.

In the end when you read your list of associations you will find the one that brings a little surge of energy with it-that is often the one that ‘clicks’. When I am working with people they often say, I don’t know why I am thinking of this now, but I remember such and such event…”

After you have looked at the initial scenes and their locations, you are ready to look at the DYNAMICS.

In working with the dynamics of a dream you make a connection between what is happening inside of you in real time– your inner dynamics – with what is happening and playing out in the dream story. Ask yourself the question—if I translated the actions of the dream into my inner world, does any aspect of this feel familiar? For example – if two people in your dream are having an argument, is there an argument going on inside of you, by way of a conflict you have within your self, something you have not been able to resolve? These are examples of the inner workings or process of becoming a whole person. The dreams present the stages along the way, adventures or obstacles, beliefs, surprises, key people or qualities that you value or dislike. Dreams describe our inner world, which internally deliver our outer experiences, via relationships, jobs, careers, etc.

And it is on the inner level that you can change things. Often the most life- altering thing that can happen in your life is for you to recognize and name a dynamic you have been living. This naming is the turn-around event.

Robert Johnson writes that the single most important thing to realize is that all of our dream characters represent an aspect or something going on within us. And that dreams about ‘others’ are not excuses for blaming other persons or making proof as a case against them.

In noting the dynamics of your dream, ask yourself the question what you have in common with the other dream characters or how you are different. Ask your self what the dream characters have in common with one another that are unlike you. Try to use neutral language in describing these characteristics. Even if you have to initially pretend, find the virtues these folks employ. For example, if the character in your dream seems very boastful to you, find a positive value in him—for instance that that he is not afraid of saying who he is or what he is good at. In this way you can begin to see what may be underground in your own life. We often make people into the bad guy because they are bringing out a way we feel secretly ashamed of in ourselves. So we develop a little moral arrogance to hide it and create distance from it.

When there are exaggerated positions or arguments in the dreams look at the beliefs and attitudes and values you hold that are being contradicted or threatened in the dream.

When a surprise shows up in a dream it is usually an indication of a limited belief we are holding. For example one of the most common surprises is when someone shows generosity or love in a dream situation that our own character might not expect – the whole matrix of always expecting the worst… that is a world many people live in to shield themselves from disappointment that they have experienced somewhere along the way that was crushing.

In some of our dreams we are simply a witnessing presence watching the dream play out in front of us like watching a drama. In these dreams you will see all sides of your character and how it is alive in your life.

In some of our dreams we discover things that disturb us down to our core. For this reason I think it is valuable to be able to work with someone whom you trust to explore these kinds of dreams. Often dreams bring up subjects that we cannot easily share with our family and friends. It is for these dreams I strongly recommend working with someone skilled in this arena. Not because they are dangerous but because they can uncover strong emotions or things we did not know, or things we may not be able to find a perspective on that will be healing That is when the steadying light and presence of someone devoted to your healing will make the difference. And healing is the point of our dreams.


At this point we are looking for the central most important message of the dream—why it came to you.

  • What is the dream advising you to do or to embody?
  • How would my life change if I embraced it?
  • Write it down.
  • Feel the energy of it.

Evaluate your interpretations by:

  • Choosing the dream that shows you something you did not know
  • Avoid the interpretations that inflate your ego or are self-congratulatory
  • Avoid interpretations that shift responsibility away from you
  • Learn to live with your dreams—over a long time—let them evolve with you—you can only know what you know right now. But along the road you may find things about your dream you were unable to know when you had it, thus they evolve with you.


For most people it is important to physically take an action that will anchor the message of the dream into everyday waking life by creating an act to consciously honor their dream.

This is an arena that indigenous cultures have employed carefully and consistently and we of the super-mind culture have often pooh-poohed as unnecessary. But it is done because it works. It acknowledges the message you have received with a sense of reverence. It says by your action that you have received the guidance and wish to act on it. In some primitive cultures they will take the message or medicine of the dream with the help of their shaman and they will ‘drive’ it into a rock or a physical object from nature. Then this object will become a piece on their altar or a place in the garden where they can look upon it, and remember it. An object becomes a thing of power by the energy we empower it with to help us make the change we wish to bring into being.

Perhaps it is as aspect of our selves we would like to let go of. We can use an object we find to hold that aspect and then cast it into the sea where we ask nature to take it where it needs to go. This can be a very powerful experience. Because it empowers us to change and not feel like we are permanent victims of life experiences. And because it takes us out of our heads where we mostly live in our modern culture and where we have become so unfortunately lost.

I heard of a man who worked with his dream by writing a letter to a part of him that was revealed in a dream. He posted it and mailed it and upon receiving it was able to take full responsibility for a part in his life and an issue that his dream had unfolded.

It can be as simple as a very intention-filled walk in nature, a phone call you have been meaning to make, a connection you have been putting off.

As with all things use your common sense. Let it be a creative act and allow yourself to be available to what will come as a result of it.

Stay tuned...more on dreams is coming!

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.


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.


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...