Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Discovering the World of Dreams
By Connie Caldes
I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream. Are we not always living the life we imagine we are? –- Henry David Thoreau
The shamans of indigenous cultures consciously traveled the dreamworld to heal individuals and ensure the survival of their communities. Resurgence of interest in this ancient wisdom indicates that our culture is opening to the gifts of dreaming and the many benefits of listening to dream wisdom. Personally, working with my dreams has taught me much about my inner being and the need to listen to my heart.
For many years, I have known that dreams were guiding me in making choices. Dreams of long-lost friends prompted me to look them up. Terrifying dreams demanded that I make major changes in my life. Dreams of deceased loved ones eased my pain during difficult periods. Pre-cognitive dreams surprised me. And, mystical dreams left me in awe.
I thought that everyone dreamed this way, with deep emotion, vivid color and powerful content. I think everyone does. Some do not remember. Some do not want to remember because they don’t like the messages contained in the dreams. Others have been told that dreams are nothing more than random nerve firing and consequently, they discard them as useless. But many believe that there is much more!
We are a confused culture when it comes to understanding the purpose and meaning of dreams. Are dreams communications from our soul? Is it possible to extract guidance and wisdom from our dreams? Can we find creative solutions to complicated problems (including those that are technically challenging) in our dreams? Albert Einstein spoke of his dreams guiding him in his work on relativity. Do we work out our everyday issues in the following night’s spontaneous dreams?
If you have come to believe that you might be more than your physical body, I invite you to consider working with your dreams as a means of exploring your spirit. There are many ways to do this, but it is best to begin by keeping a journal. And, if you don’t remember your dreams, state an affirmation just before going to sleep and write down something when you wake, even if it is a feeling or thought. Begin to send a signal to your deeper self that you wish to lift the veil between your conscious and sub-conscious. In recording my own dreams, I’ve found that I have many types, a few of which I will share here.
A profoundly healing dream came to me in 1999 in which I perceived myself to be outside of my body:
Child in the River
I wake up to find that I am floating above my bed and facing upward. A card comes through the ceiling with a light blue angel inscribed on it. I realize that I am free of my body and wish to stand on the floor. I am transported to the desired position with sensations that are somehow familiar to me. I pass my hand through the curtains and confirm my ghostly status. A river forms in the floor of my bedroom, under my favorite window. As I look into the river, I am surprised and somewhat fearful because I see a little girl struggling in the current. I realize that she is me. Birds appear in the window behind the river.
This dream has had life-changing consequences for me. First, the sensations of being outside the body during a dream were beyond exhilarating. For me, they confirmed that we are so much more than our physical selves. Next, I did everything within my power to further explore my childhood and the meaning of this image. This process has been deeply healing and has guided me in discovering gifts that I might bring to my friends and community. And finally, the dream compelled me to learn about shamanic healing, which has led me to many enriching life experiences and even new work.
I have had many lucid dreams in the recent years and find them to be exciting. A lucid dream is when we wake up in the dream and realize that we are dreaming. Here is an example of such a dream:
I am running from a T-Rex. Suddenly, I become fully aware that I am dreaming, feel fear flow out of my body and turn to face the T-Rex. I punch his snout repeatedly until he turns into a non-functioning blob. Then, he re-emerges from the blob and goes after me again. I attack him again and he is reduced to another blob. This time it is really over. I am very pleased with my power and that I did not give in to fear.
When I woke from this dream, I was acutely aware that the attack was an illusion. I strive to reconnect to that deep knowing when other fearful situations arise. Also, I felt sad when I thought about this dream and wondered if the T-Rex might have had a message for me. When I used a technique to go back inside a dream to search for more information, I heard the T-Rex say “Slow Down!” My immediate thought was that this was a commentary on my life-style, but soon after, I received a speeding ticket. In looking back in my dream journal, this was the second time that I received a speeding ticket right after dreaming of the T-Rex. The T-Rex might be more than a metaphor for a police officer with a radar detector, but I will be checking my speed whenever the T-Rex shows up. And, as usual, synchronicity was about to strike. A few months later, I was driving down a road and noticed a large green construction vehicle. The side indicated the brand as TeRex. My foot went for the break pedal immediately as I assumed that I was getting a warning. Just one mile later, on what was a very rural road sat a police officer pulling over unsuspecting drivers.
We can dream of departed loved ones. In the late 1980s, I had a series of dreams about the wishes of my grandfather who had died in 1975. These dreams centered on my father and his love of baseball. I felt profoundly guided and supported by my grandfather in these dreams. Many months later, I found myself sitting in the movie “Field of Dreams.” I was blown away by the strong connection between the story in this film, my family history and the dreams of my grandfather. At that time, I could not make any sense of how I could have dreamed the themes in this film prior to its release. These things still surprise me when they pop up, but I don’t try to understand. Rather, I know that it is confirmation from the otherworld that our waking reality is limited, and that we are not limited to it!
I wake up in a state of awe when I dream of reading poems or hearing music. This dream was one of my favorites:
A friend and I take a ride to the ocean. A group of people, African except one Asian male, in gorgeous colorful gowns, walk toward me on the shore, singing a beautiful African song. I hear sophisticated harmonies in a foreign language. They pass me, turn and face me and sing more. An African man in his fifties leads this group.
The vivid sights and intricate sounds in this dream mystified me. I felt honored by the chorus of beautiful people. A little more than a year later, I found myself working with Malidoma Some, author of The Healing Wisdom of Africa. It did not surprise Malidoma or me that he looked very much like the man that led the chorus in my dream.
I sometimes see beautiful ethereal visions in my dreams. They have an otherworldly feel to them. One showed up at a time when my x-husband had partial hearing loss and was being tested for a brain tumor:
I “wake” to a beautiful sight in my room. Near my husband’s tall chest of drawers is something that looks like a totem pole, except it is ethereal, appearing to be made of a lightweight tissue paper-like substance with all sorts of filigree patterns cut out all over. On top, sits a beautiful pure white bird. In front of this totem-bird image is a swirl of energy and light rotating in a clockwise direction, like a spiral towards its own center. This image appears to be riding on the end of a light beam that is pouring in the window.
When I woke from this dream, my memory of the breath-taking image in front of my x-husband’s dresser convinced me that he was not in medical danger. This feeling was soon confirmed when the MRI came back negative and his hearing returned. This dream is still my lifetime favorite!
I’ve learned from Sandra Ingerman, faculty member for The Foundation for Shamanic Studies and author of Soul Retrieval and Medicine for the Earth that from a shamanic point of view, power animals empower, protect and guide human beings. I dream of many species each month and notice certain animal images showing up repeatedly. As an example, I often dream of bears. Amongst Native Americans, Bear is the Great American Medicine Animal. For others, Bear is the Great Mother. When the Bear shows up in my dream, I honor the dream by working with it extensively, searching for messages of protection and healing.
Dreams of death are often frightening. We think they mean that we are going to die soon when they might be pointing to part of us that needs to die to open to a deeper life. This is not to say that death dreams are never about physical death, but I’ve had two dreams of my own death, both of which directed me to terminate an unhealthy relationship in order to resurrect myself.
Synchronicity in many forms is a natural by-product of dreamwork. You will see the images, people, animals, symbols and more from your dreams show up in waking life in the most unusual of ways. You will know when it happens. And those that believe in the magic of the universe will be receptive to your stories. Your relationships will be more exciting if you share your dreams and synchronicities.
There are many gifts of the dreaming. Dreams can help you recover lost aspects of yourself, find your soul friends, discover your life’s work, deepen healthy connections, find the courage to end destructive relationships, write with greater creativity and be in touch with your inner guidance. The gifts are endless. Set intentions when you go to sleep. Ask questions. Look for answers. Your life will change! May you find your own majesty! And may you have wonderful dreams!
This post represents Chapter One of "Dream Stories: Recovering the Inner Mystic," a book by Connie Caldes and Kellie Meisl, both of whom live and work in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Portions of this writing originally were published in Dream Network Journal, at www.dreamnetworkjournal.net.