|"River of Dreams" Elizabeth Westaway, 1962|
How were dreams approached in your family? What did you learn from others about dreaming growing up? What dreams do you remember from your childhood? What help did you receive figuring dreams out?
For many, the answer to any of these questions is, not much. It complicates things that the most memorable dreams are often experienced as nightmares. Unless we’re working with PTSD playback dreams, nightmares are usually dream gauntlets thrown down by our dream guides because they think we’re ready to face what we’re running from in waking life. As you know from many of my previous posts, I believe a nightmare is my best friend. Working and playing with nightmares is a practice that has always payed off for me and for dreamers in my groups who’ve bravely ventured where before they feared to tread. There is an old saying: “Where there’s fear, there’s power” that is especially true in dreaming dimensions.
One of the perks of being a dream teacher is you witness magic and healing in every encounter involving someone’s dream. Sometimes people tell me they used to have vivid, magical, wonderful dreams as a child, then “something” happened and their dream portals dried up and their dreams are full of the worries of waking existence, when they’re remembered at all.
I’ve had the great honor of seeing that turn around in my students. Just recently someone who said that very thing to me when we first met at a workshop, at the end of the group course she took with me said of a dream she'd just had:
“Last night it hit me like a ton of bricks! I guess I couldn't see the forest for the trees but this was the first time in decades that I was flying again in my dreams. For me this is HUGE as I loved my childhood flying adventures and finally I was, AM, airborne again!!!!” Yay, hurray, yippee…that’s all I have to say.”
Again and again, I see the joy people take in their own dreams once they reconnect with their dreaming self. Wouldn’t it be better if we nurtured the dream life we all came here with in our children, instead of letting it be shut down due to ignorance or censorship?
It’s only a dream? Really? If we learn to follow and trust our dreaming intelligence we can pass that wisdom on to our children and they can pass the magic of that world from their vantage point back to us. Parents who know how to work and play with their own dreams are at a tremendous advantage, as are their children.
For one, dreaming is an organic path to consciousness and spirituality. We have natural access to the many dimension of reality we left behind to incarnate into this physical body, in this physical world, through our dreaming, lifelong.
This can come in handy when addressing the quintessential questions about God, death and the meaning of life that often get asked of parents by their children. When a parent has nurtured a dream dialogue with their child, and encouraged a dream practice in their child, it’s more than likely that child, having grown up with strong dream guidance and experience, will come up with some answers on her/his own. If not, the parent has the entire cornucopia of dream images they've heard from their child to build an explanation to which the child can thoroughly relate.
For example, this might be a scenario of a parent listening to a child’s dream of a beloved grandma, who died; the child dreamed of her last night: “You saw grandma last night in your dream? Yes, grandma died last week. The dream didn’t scare you? You felt happy to see her? She wanted to visit you and tell you she’s okay and how much she still loves you?” Then a parent might say; “Shall we draw a picture of your dream? We can give it to grandpa, if you want.”
A parent with a dreaming practice has access to a unique resource for nurturing a spiritual core in their children that goes far beyond what Western culture has offered in centuries. Today’s parents can learn how to develop a family dream practice that will serve their children throughout their lives.
I hear so many friends say when their children reach that questioning age that they are going to take their child to church, regardless of the fact that they, on their own, wouldn’t go, but they say, they want to give them a spiritual base. Later they say, their child can choose what religion or not they will follow.
As a former psychotherapist, I say this is the stuff the profession counts on for their bread and butter, that and childhood family entanglements. Not to worry, I would love to say to them, connect to your own dreams, teach your children to connect to theirs, and not only will you feel confident that you’ve given your child a spiritual terra firma, you’ll also have a lot of fun in the process and develop out of the ordinary communication with them, as well.
As in any other practice, yoga, tai chi chuan, dance, playing an instrument, etc, you can't teach what you haven’t experienced yourself. It’s a great idea for parents to learn how to have an ongoing relationship with their own dreams. I highly recommend the innovative and practical approach Robert Moss presents in his books and DVD series on Active Dreaming; it's the modern shamanic approach to a dream practice. His book, “The Three Only Things” is a great introduction to Active Dreaming, as is, quite humbly, the DVD series Jim and I produced with him, The Way of the Dreamer. With a little guidance from veteran dream explorers to get you started, nothing beats your own dream journal for the best tutorial on dreaming. I encourage parents to develop a dream practice so they can pass this great gift on as soon as possible to their children.
Dreaming protects and sparks imagination, something we desperately need in these creativity- numbing times of electronic entertainment. Do you think, when you’re dead, you’ll still elect to spend hours of each day in front of a babbling box of ever cascading images of the same thing? Or will you be out there doing the impossible, dancing and singing your joy? Flying?
We are not finite human beings; we are infinite spiritual beings. Nothing ends; it’s never over. It changes, that’s all. The good news of this brave new world we are now living in is that consciousness studies and dream pioneering has brought us to this new age of discovery, not an exploration of outer space, but one of inner space. The 100th monkey has got the picture; it’s time. Dream time is as important as waking time. Help, as Robert likes to say, is always available to those who ask, especially if they listen to the answers offered in dreams.
May your best dreams come true.