Friday, September 30, 2011

Dream Games With Children

A dear friend told me a story I love, about her grandson's first reaction to the concept of the "tooth fairy." After he lost his first tooth, she said to him, "Honey, if you put your tooth under your pillow, the tooth fairy will take it and leave you some money. He looked earnestly into her eyes and said; "I don't want that woman in my room."

I howled with laughter when she told me this and thought, we just have to pay more attention to the wisdom of children. Frankly, I never understood why the same protective adult who told me not to talk to or go with strangers expected me to be thrilled to sit on Santa's lap at some department store or let a clown hug me.

Children's instincts are usually spot on; the more they're encouraged to trust them, the better served they will be all their lives. Now I'm not talking about letting kids choose their menu or bedtime; I'm talking about listening to their thoughts and reactions and respecting their intuitive behaviors. And of course, listening to their dreams and encouraging their dream play.

Children find Active Dreaming techniques easy to incorporate into their flexible paradigms. They have no trouble acting out a dream character, drawing a picture or making up another ending.

You know from previous posts that I enjoy playing with nightmares; I find little kids can get into that easily. Did I tell you about the little boy (5?) whose big brother, (maybe 10), wanted to borrow the movie, "Jurassic Park" from the library? Browsing the shelves near by, I heard the little one say to his brother, "I always get nightmares when I watch that." Unable to help myself, I stepped up beside him, and said, "I get nightmares, too, when I watch scary movies. But you know, I can sometimes make them not so scary." He was shy, but interested; "How?" he said. "Do you like dinosaurs?", I asked him. "Yeah!" he said. "What's you're favorite one?" I asked him. "TRex!" he said. "Well, if I have scary dreams about dinosaurs chasing me, I would want to draw a picture of my favorite one, TRex, and give him a name and make him my buddy. I'd put the picture next to my bed and I know that if ever any dinosaurs chase me, my buddy TRex will protect me. And, I might even want to draw a story book about what we do together so I can remember and make more stories when I'm asleep." He looked at me, eyes wide, big smile and said, "Thanks!"

Not to be creepy, I stepped away and went on with my own library reverie, but you can bet my smile did not fit on my face.

Let's play dream games with our own dreams and then we'll know how to guide our children.

(The picture was drawn by another dear friend of mine, Allie Leigh, when she was maybe 12 or 13. She'll correct me if I'm wrong. She let me use it for "The Way of the Dreamer" DVDs so I'm guessing she won't mind my using it here. Again, she'll correct me if I'm wrong:-)

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;

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,
we Endure.

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.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Big Dick: The power of Dream Imagery

A wife dreams that her husband has an enormous penis, like that of a horse or an elephant. Seriously. But, that’s all I can tell you.

I can discretely comment, this image has huge potential. After determining that her feelings surrounding the dream were positive and doing some reality check (which did not need to involve the actual size of her husband’s penis) to make sure it wasn't a health warning, I played the “if it were my dream” game with the image.

“If it’s my dream, it may be about channeling my inner dick.” She liked that.
Truth is, I could use doing that a little more, as well, and I like the image.

In Jung’s view, the Animus archetype can manifest as male characters in women's dreams. A closely related to me male dream character may be a male aspect of myself. Instead of or in addition to being my actual husband, brother, father, son, etc. this may be some quality I project on to loved males that I may want to cultivate in myself. This image, if it's my dream, inspires these questions: "Don’t I realize I have a big dick? Do I recognize my power?"

Now in all love and deference to Jung, he could be chauvinist at times. His description of the Animus archetype seems rather scolding of women “with balls,” especially in his discussion of animus possession, but his many contributions to the field of dream work and psychology make me rather tolerant of him.

The Animus, Jung said,is a woman’s inner male, one she often projects on to a man she falls in love with, thus giving credence to the adage, “love is blind.” If a woman’s Animus is completely projected outside of herself in waking life, it can lead to unhappiness and trouble for her. Dreams give us insight into this archetypal energy’s working at any given moment and provides metaphors suited to the lessons we need to learn.

“Big Dick” is just an example of how one itsy bitsy (well, not in this case) image can manifest its energy in our waking lives.

In much of western culture, we are very timid about the sex organs, yet, they're everywhere in our advertising and entertainment. India, on the other hand, reveres male and female sexual energy at temple sites; many Indians have home altars set up to honor the Lingam and the Yoni. It’s a much franker approach, to appreciate sexual organs on an archetypal level as the forces of creation. If, as a woman, I dream of my penis/Animus, AKA, presence and power in the world around me, growing much bigger of late, well, perhaps it’s good news. Perhaps it's time for me to step into my own..

Is it time for women to notice how much power they do have, at least right now, in our country. Well, there's a lot to suggest that. This image sprang from one woman's dream source, but I can easily see it helping many achieve a new cockiness.

I found this wonderful yoni/lingam anthuriam on wikepedia, credit to Thaejas.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Honoring Dreams - Dreams Require Action

Active Dreaming is a direct, accessible approach to building a dreaming life for just about anyone of any age. I'd like to emphasize how important “honoring a dream” is in an Active Dreaming practice.  Using indigenous peoples' understanding of dreaming, AD teaches the value of of listening and responding to dreams in conscious, waking life. 

Robert Moss has written extensively on this topic, so I refer you to his books for more information, and if you prefer audio/visual learning, to the DVD series that Jim and I produced with Robert, presenting Active Dreaming, The Way of the Dreamer with Robert Moss

People who live/lived much closer to Nature than we do now had lots more time on their hands for introspection. Not necessarily because their lives were less stressed than ours, (try hunting and gathering for a living) but because they didn’t have or need our distractions. Visualize the phenomenal amount of hours the average American man, woman and child watch television or other devices, the lack of sleep that afflicts many and the “hurry sickness” that infects our conscious lives. Who has time or energy for introspection or dream work? But for our indigenous ancestors, dreams provided a lot of their entertainment; they also connected through dreams to the worlds of Spirit.

I'm not saying honor your dreams by doing whatever you think your dream is telling you to do, fly, beat up your boss or go to church naked. Honoring a dream is about: 

1. Listening. Paying Attention.  I just heard the old song, “Elusive Butterfly of Love” by Bob Lind, which is about a love struck romantic chasing his beloved into her dreams through his. (Hmmm, sounds good to me). I use this example because he’s obviously tuned in to his dreams, even though he’s telling her in the song not to let his flitting in bother her, it’s just a dream. (Actually it's very bad etiquette to flit into someone's dream without permission.) Still, his dreams are a happening place.  When I go to sleep, I know I’m going somewhere. I’ll be doing something. Sometimes I “incubate” what I want from my dream by asking for a dream about a desire or need, but when I don’t, I still know I’m going on a dream journey, just like when I get into my car, I’m headed somewhere. 

2. Recording, Journaling. I’ve posted some ideas on recording dreams previously; what I wish to emphasize now is  the pleasure of this exercise. Your dream journal becomes your book of life. It contains stories that you’ll grow to love and see as part of who you are. All it takes is developing the simple practice of writing your dream story into your journal. This practice not only honors your dream, it honors your soul, for as some of our indigenous ancestors taught, dreams are the secret wishes of the soul.

3. Engage and Dialogue.  Once I record my dream there are many ways to play with its story. I can do stream of consciousness writing or drawing, I can copy a dance or song from a dream.  I can also engage characters from the dream in dialogue.  My favorite dream play practice is to re-enter a dream and continue it's action to my satisfaction.  Dreams bridge the gap between waking and sleep, the two portals we enter and exit daily that are equally part of our existence on this planet. Just as we use our conscious mind to navigate our waking world, we can use our imagination to navigate our dream worlds.

4. Gratitude. In gratitude to my dream, I consciously honor it in my waking life by acting on its message or manifesting its symbols. I may share it with a person who was part of my dream by contacting them, whether I share the dream or not. I may follow its inspiration in writing stories, songs or poems. I may draw a picture or find one to display prominently, to evoke the dream for me as I go about my daily affairs,  Sometimes, I just ponder it for days, turning it around in my thoughts, letting the symbols dance in my mind’s eye until it reveals something of itself I’ve missed.  

It takes building a relationship with our dreams to know just how to honor one in waking life; the more we play with them, the more we can live our lives creatively. Dream play, honoring your dream, is like sex, if you can make time for it and enjoy it, you don’t regret it. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Now What Was That Dream Again?

I may rehearse the mantra, "just write it down", but it doesn't always mean I practice it. I still, after all these years, resist some dreams when I wake up from them. I find myself just sidling on past the journal writing part, into my morning prayers and ablutions. Sometimes, I even feel angry at my dream source; "I"m not writing it down, too bad." But I've dialogued with my dream worlds long enough to recognize these ignored, repressed and dismissed "icky" dreams for what they really are, sheep in wolf's clothing.

In my vocabulary, an icky dream is one that I knee-jerk don't like because it shames me or makes me feel otherwise, icky. They're not nightmares. Nightmares are different; they scare the pajama off me and I always write them down and work with them. But icky dreams often don't make it on to paper right away.

What typically happens is that I wake from an icky dream and just skip it; don't write it down, even though I remember it. It haunts me from time to time until, maybe a day or two later, something pops into my head about it, usually an image that escaped my attention. All of a sudden a light bulb goes on and I see the potential in this dream for healing gifts, gifts I've actually been asking my dreams for before going to sleep.

So, I sit down, a little chagrined for my silliness, and write it as clearly and honestly as I remember it. I remind myself that this is for my eyes only, to serve my memory, so I can mine the gold that I now see, but failed to recognize fresh from the dream experience. From there, I'm off and running with it. I can re-enter this dream and gain the understanding it offers. I can carry it around with me until I get it. When I get it, the ickyness is always transformed, replaced by awe, gratitude and usually, a good laugh.

Thoreau is often quoted as saying; "The unexamined life is not worth living." He also said "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined". I'd like to add that in order to do that, it helps to go confidently into your sleep dreams, because they are gifts, gateways to self-knowledge and self-love. They help us free our imagination in waking life so we can follow our bliss.

Jesus is quoted as saying, "The truth shall set you free." That's precisely the reward pursuing the trail of an icky dream offers me. If at first I resist, that's okay. I know my truth pursues me in my dreams until I have the heart-courage to face it. It might take me a few days to, as Robert Moss puts it, "brave up", but because my dreams have never let me down, brave up I do.

I'm offering these thoughts on the heels of owning and writing down an icky dream from earlier this week. As I wrote it out, I knew I had to share the experience with you. Maybe it'll help you claim dream gifts that come looking a little icky at first.

(Sorry about the dead sand shark, it was the ickiest picture I had handy:-)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Strange Case of Me and Not Me

I’ve loved public libraries since I was 15 when I worked in one after school; recently, I've taken to frequenting my neighborhood library again. I’ve especially enjoyed access to a great selection of literature on audio CD. I can listen to wonderful stories while I’m making jewelry, driving or cooking. Sometimes I listen to contemporary works, other times I select a classic. Often, I'm delighted by the energizing synchronicity of finding myself listening to the exact inspiration I need at the time.

I just finished Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", wonderfully narrated by Scott Brick. I was mesmerized by the story of a brilliant man who experiments with splitting himself from his Shadow and consequently reaps the tragic results. Stevenson wrote the story prior to any publication of Jung's famous work on the Shadow and what's even better, the story was based on his dreams.

In a recent post from Robert Moss's Dreamgates blog, Robert includes these great quotes about the story from Stevenson and from his wife.

'“For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort; and on the second night I dreamed the scene at the window, and a scene afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued for some crime, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuers.”

His wife related picturesquely how one night Louis cried out horror-stricken, how she woke him up and he protested, “Why did you waken me? I was dreaming a fine bogy-tale!” She also related how he appeared the next morning excitedly exclaiming, “I have got my schilling-shocker — I have got my schilling-shocker!”'

You can read the rest of Robert's post here:

Stevenson entertained a vibrant dialogue with his dreams and believed his very livelihood depended on it. An active dream dialogue is key to unlocking many of life's essential mysteries, not the least of which is how to achieve balance within our imperfect humanity.

According to Carl Jung, the characters we reject or that repulse us in our dreams, especially when they are the same gender as us, are our Shadow parts. These are the aspects of our personalities that we don’t want to own, aspects that we deem undesirable or socially unacceptable. Sometimes, we also reject our "bright Shadow," admirable characteristics or qualities which our low self-esteem won't let us claim as our own.

The thing about the Shadow Archetype is that in waking life, we often project on to others what we reject and fear in ourselves. When we're hyper-critical and condemning of others, we may be animated by our unconscious Shadow blindness. But when we're actively in dialogue with our dreams, we have an opportunity to interact with Shadow aspects of our personality in ultimately rewarding ways.

Case in point is my Jeze-bella, whom I've renamed after getting to know her a bit.  When she appeared in my dream, I saw her as opposite to me, the Whore to my Madonna. But it was that gut feeling of rejection that led me to seek more interaction with her in a dream re-entry. When I met her in my night dream I was indifferent to her; I was willing to let her take my risks and suffer my dangers without so much as a thought for her well-being. Then I re-entered my dream and really met her, talked to her and came to understand her life strategy. Maybe she's down and dirty, but she’s a survivor, with a survivor’s stealth and wile. I’m learning a lot from her. Now, I love getting together with her for continued extended adventures in the in-between spaces of dream re-entry.

Dreams teach us introspection. They put us in dialogue with dimensions of ourselves that we've unconsciously rejected but that our dreams show us we must consciously integrate. Jung believed that the Shadow Archetype is critically important to our personal development and saw it as the first gateway to individuation. He also posited that integrating aspects of our Shadow selves is the secret to unlocking our true creativity. Creativity is the goddess/god given faculty of living life with imagination, a sense of humor and an accurate compass to where our bliss lies.

Each time I react negatively to a dream, especially to a female character, each time dreams leave me with feelings that are icky, scary or embarrassing, my dream radar says, “Darling, do you think this may have some valuable teaching from your Shadow?” Owning the "not me" parts of myself allows me to navigate my waking life more consciously and responsibly, with fewer blind spots to trip me up.

Now, what do you think Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry would say about their inner Jezebels or Mr. Hydes? In the same sense that we project our evil and taboos on to others individually, we collude with other one-dimensional personalities and project as a group on to other groups all our denied short-comings, fear and doubt. This was characteristic of the Nazi fervor in WWII, absolute Black and White; we’re Good, God is on our side; they’re Evil, Satan on earth. If you think this is a past phenomenon, just look at what, besides money-greed, is fueling our scary world conflicts today.

Instead of buying our own ego hype and living in a rigid Persona, we come to realize through dream-play that we’re capable of many personalities, some good, some bad (in our own judgments anyway), some we see as "me" and some we insist are "not me". Establishing a dialogue and living consciously with our rejected parts guards us from the lure of polemic ideologies; we become rooted in our own spirituality. Without this insight, we sit in judgment of people whom we believe are opposite to us; we list the faults of others and criticize their choices. But when we have experience meeting and dialoguing with our own Shadow through dreaming, we recognize the complexity of the other person's existence, and though we may still not agree with them, we don't need to villanize or exterminate them.

I think that the more of us get chummy with our personal Shadows, the more of us will recognize the Shadows looming behind the ideologues that seek to rule us. We can point and say, “I’d like you to turn around and answer to that Shadow behind you, and when you’ve found your humility and compassion, you can speak to me of your god, your right and wrong, and your vision for our country.