Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walk Like an Egyptian

In the practice of Active Dreaming taught by Robert Moss, waking dreams are as important as night dreams. A “waking dream” is an experience from my waking life that I choose to treat as if it were a dream. It can be recent or from long ago, the key is to play with the memory the same way I play with a dream.

First, I write down my memory of the experience in my journal. I take an objective approach, as if I were writing a news story or filing a police report, just the events as they occurred, no speculation or interpretation. I date it fully- month, date, and year - and give it a title. When I’ve finished writing it down, I can look at the experience more objectively and perhaps learn something from it.
Let me offer a recent waking dream example:

My friends and I are working together at a business event we’ve produced. We’re enjoying ourselves, as usual; talking and laughing between attending to customers. In walks a stranger, a man dressed in black, abrupt, arrogant and aloof. Throughout the event, he interacts with each of us and says things that in the guise of jovial jesting are veiled insults.

My waking dream story is much longer, but this vignette illustrates how I play with a waking dream. In this experience, which I titled "Kiss-off", I choose to look at this stranger the way I look at a shadow/animus figure in a dream.

According to Carl Jung, sometimes a character we dislike or fear in our dreams is a Shadow figure. Shadow figures for Jung are usually the same sex as the dreamer, but the opposite sex can also appear in shadow roles. I believe the shadow delivers a message I need to hear. It may upset me, insult me, or make me feel shame, but if I look beyond my defenses, the reward is always worth the effort. (For more of my musings on the Shadow see my previous post “The Shadow Knows” on 12/22/09.)

The animus/anima is an even more intriguing archetype, according to C.G.Jung, much more complex (pun intended). In my experience, my animus, the male characters in my dreams, come in a variety of personifications which I can put into two groups; good animus – bad animus. When I encounter a “bad animus” he’s usually threatening, bullying, undermining or skeeving me out somehow in the dream. He may even be threatening my life. If I face and challenge him, I'm sure to benefit because he embodies my fears and self-loathing; he comes at me menacing and it’s my job to figure out how to tame and transform this beast within me.

One caveat, dreams can sometimes be literal warnings about waking life threats. Playing with your own dreams for an extended period of time is the best way to ascertain a dream’s meaning because you become familiar with your own dream ways. (For more, see my post “When Bad Dreams Happen to Good People” 3/6/10.)

Back to my waking dream, if I use my dream sense to evaluate my experience I have to ask, is that person I so dislike a Shadow to me or what Castaneda might call, a worthy adversary? Should I look at his insults for what I might learn? Why not? There may be personal or communal benefits to be won if we’re willing to dive in, face what we fear or own what we dislike. The Shadow illuminates our blind spots, in waking or sleep dreams. That doesn’t mean I have to like the guy or be his BF. When I become the observer of my experience, an extra benefit to learning a lot about myself is that it diffuses the sting of negative energy.

Walk like an Egyptian means pay attention, as the Egyptians did, to the omens, messages and spiritual lessons that may come in my waking life, as surely as they come to me in dreams.