Monday, September 26, 2011
Waking Dreams with Bernie Siegel
Once you get the hang of playing with dream images, plots, characters and happenings, you start to play around with your waking life. There are some moments in life that deserve to be viewed from a dream perspective.
I just finished a three part workshop with the wonderful Dr. Bernie Siegel, a great pioneer in the art of integrative medicine, a visionary and a spiritual man. His books are worth reading; his work puts heart and spirit back into medical care. That's why I took the workshop, because of who he is and what he's done. Here's his website; http://berniesiegelmd.com/
In my waking dream, I come into the room, find friends in the group of perhaps 29 women and one man, and sit down beside them. Bernie invites all 30 people to introduce themselves and the reason they're here. It takes the better part of an hour for everyone to speak, but I'm amazed at the stories in the room, the suffering and the hope. When I get home the first night, I write this poem in response:
The Crucible of Our Suffering: Reflection on Class Introductions
Tempered beyond endurance by pain,
What Dreams fuel our will to live?
What Wind buoys our shaky flight?
What Light warms our tattered hearts and
tells our lungs to Breathe.
What do we See?
What do we Know that keeps us going?
The second workshop was about how drawings reveal our unconscious, inner needs and perspectives. I've posted before about dream drawing, how the more spontaneous and fast you let yourself draw, the more comes to the fore from the dream that hadn't been noticed or even imaged quite that way. (I actually just had a doozy of a revelation drawing a recent dream scene and will definitely be sharing that with you in a future post.) Bernie asked us to draw a self portrait and a landscape, the picture above is my self portrait. I like it a lot; it makes me feel happy because I'm dancing.
I believe that images surround us in waking and dreaming that speak volumes to our psyche on a constant basis. The ego, perhaps the part of us that has been schooled in words and logic, balks at simplistic, pictorial communication. With the shield of the Persona, the Ego seeks to keep control with words and theories, but drawing knocks it off it's perch. Imagery is the pictorial language we used when we first hit the planet as a species, or individually, as a baby. Imagery cuts through the subterfuge of mind and goes to the heart of our truth.
The more willing I am to give up ego control and free-fall, the easier it is to navigate the wild waters of the "unconscious", (Ursula LeGuin calls it "inner space"). Robert Moss's Active Dreaming places great emphasis on dreaming, synchronicity, intuition, and imagination, practices that help us bridge the waking and dreaming worlds.
Bernie uses dreams and drawings to help him diagnose illness in his patients, and also to help his patients understand themselves better, giving them powerful tools for spiritual, emotional and physical healing. He may be a reincarnation of some ancient physician who knew that illness is not just a somatic phenomenon, that healing has to address the whole person.
The third meeting focused on some questions that Bernie asked us all to answer. These were questions born out of his personal experience and studies that he's answered for himself and posed to many. Do you want to live to be 100? How would you introduce yourself to God? What would you do in your last 15 minutes of life? There were some 80 questions and 7 essay questions. I did my homework.
In class, Bernie shares with us his own responses and some stories they evoke. Now that I'm not handing my answers in, I think I'll go back and answer them again, even more honestly. The course is thought provoking and soul searching. One mother of a child with special and demanding needs is there also as a professional healer. She asks, "Why is it so much easier to agonize over our failings than it is to accept our accomplishments; why is that so much a part of our human nature?" Indeed.
I like to think of myself as sent to this particular parallel universe with a mission. To me the ultimate freedom is, as Jesus put it, to be my own authority. By who's authority do I believe what I believe? By the authority of my own experience, especially, my dreaming experience. So I think it's the nature of this particular reality level to be in constant struggle to get out of the muck and I trust that it gets better some incarnations on. Still, what that mother/healer said, or rather, the longing to know that I felt from her through her question, leaves me pondering.
In this waking dream, I experience learning like throwing a pebble into water and watching the concentric circles of impact spread across the surface. It's Bernie's intent, I believe, to radiate love, (a fitting metaphor for a physician whose innovative healing practice with cancer patients is legend). "Love is The Answer" is an acronym I've used for years in my jewelry design business, LITA Designs, just to get that thought out there. I think Bernie has distilled from the alchemy of his practice as a healer this very same lesson, and with all his credentials and accomplishments, that simple lesson is what he teaches.