Come join me at The Raven’s Wing on Grand Ave. in Oakland. It’s a free monthly event!
Come join me at The Raven’s Wing on Grand Ave. in Oakland. It’s a free monthly event!
It’s very likely you’ve had a dream of being chased, under the threat of harm. This is one of the most common nightmares. Nightmares often play out in a similar fashion.
A common script:
Dream turns scary.
Dreamer retreats, desperate to escape.
Dream continues to unfold in unbearable ways.
Dreamer resists and will do almost anything to change what is.
Whether being chased by a hungry, wild animal, serial killer, or scary monster, we run – and fast! Would it be a surprise if I told you that not every runs away? Would it shock you if I told you that some dreamers turn directly toward what is feared?
By facing what, at first, seems scary and instead, engaging with it, transformation is possible. What we resist, persists, as the saying goes. The old habit of turning away is challenged. By refusing to acknowledge or listen to the messages of the dream source, we are likely to continue to be chased, haunted, or frightened. Imagine what could unfold by regarding nightmarish dream figures as helpful messengers. With some attention and gentle confrontation, once startling figures, may turn out to be the bearers of important news, or carry personal messages meant to be shared with the dreamer. For example, the dreamer may learn of a developing illness in need of medical attention, or an addiction spinning out of control, or an aspect of oneself needing acknowledgment and care, all as a result of engaging a frightening or bothersome dream figure.
But why, if we are meant to understand something, wouldn’t the dream figure appear in a more gentle form? If it did, would we pay attention? In his book, Conscious dreaming: A spiritual path for everyday life, Robert Moss suggests that dreamers ask, “What am I running from?” People so often run from things that cannot be controlled. Also consider that if we run when chased, could we be running away from an aspect of ourself? Behaviors and attitudes in waking life closely reflect those in dreams, and the behaviors and attitudes in dream states are a familiar reflection of waking life. Avoidance or denial in the dream state, for instance, is likely to spill over into the waking state, and vice versa. In addition, one’s most unpleasant aspects, false ego, or unhealthy choices may manifest in unattractive, dirty, or even ugly imagery. Such imagery cannot be ignored. Yes, we wake up frightened, but we remember.
What better way to gain insight into all of this then to ask the dream adversary itself? With some lucidity or conscious awareness in the dream, we can ask, “What message do you have for me?” “Why are you chasing me?” Or, “What do you represent?” Dreams have so much to offer – they can reveal so much to those who are willing to listen and pat attention. What do we have to lose? After all, by fleeing in either state – dream or waking – a similar challenge will await us on the other side. For instance, we may notice addictions or unhealthy behavioral distractions surface when the nightmare is not confronted. In the end, there is nowhere to hide. Moss asks, “What are the shapes of your deepest fears and insecurities?” He adds, “You can count on your dreams to show them to you, over and over, until you have grown beyond them. Thus nightmares often present recurring themes. You are falling – maybe because you don’t yet realize you can fly.” I believe that dreams have a way of acting as a compass would. The highest compass – the soul’s compass – will always steer us in the direction of growth and toward the highest good.
Interested in working with dreams? Psychologists and psychotherapists specializing in dreamwork can be found all over the world. The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) – the world’s largest professional dream association – is a good place to start. As an IASD Board Member, I can help you find a dreamworker near you. My services are currently being offered in San Francisco and Nevada City, California. Email me anytime!
Additionally, the IASD will be offering an online dream conference from September 23 through October 7, 2018. The online platform allows for greater accessibility to those around the world, so I am really excited to connect with other dreamers abroad. I will be presenting a paper titled ‘Extraordinary Announcing Dreams.’ For more information, visit http://iasdconferences.org/psi2018/
Please consider joining us,
Last week, I returned from the 35th annual conference of the IASD, that is, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which was held in Arizona this year. IASD conferences hold a special place in my heart, not only for the cutting-edge workshops and research presentations (such as Dr. Krippner’s shown here), but also for the soulful attendees as well. To spend 5 days with a large group of professionals, who hold such love for dreams and dreaming, is precious indeed. The interdisciplinary inclusion really makes these events special. Discussing dream research and holding space for dreamwork processes with so many psychologists, anthropologists, students, physicians, authors, psychiatrists, artists, psychotherapists and other healers is a true learning experience. It was also exciting to deliver a workshop and share my recently published book, Extraordinary Dreams, with people from all over the world – those I only get to see once a year. And while I have been attending IASD conferences since 2012, this year I became a Board member. There will be much to learn in this new position.
Something I habitually do before departing for an IASD conference is to chose a recent ‘big’ dream that I will focus on or work with during dreamwork process workshops. One year, for example, I chose a memorable tornado dream, and this year, I chose my most recent, which has turned out to be the most potent, mountain lion dream. While I gain a great deal of intellectual stimulation from the research presentations, it is the dreamwork sessions that leave me relating to my ‘big’ dreams much more deeply than before I arrived. They help me to keep the evolving relationship with the dream characters alive and come to deeper levels of meaning.
Many art-centered dream workshops I have attended, and loved, include two dimensional creations, such as, creative writing, drawing, painting, collage. This year, there was one workshop I attended that incorporated a three dimensional quality. The workshop leader brought 3-D pieces (woodscraps, beads, pipecleaners, sticks, tissue paper), and with these, the attendees were asked to create the dream or reflect dream characters three-dimensionally. This made a real difference for me because I could show others aspects of my mountain lion dream in ways that were difficult two-dimensionally. What’s more, I could move the pieces around when needed. This allowed me to ‘communicate’ in ways I had not been able to before and helped me to understand the greater ‘constellation’ of the dream in a new way.
Sometimes, we may not be able to find the time to create 3-D objects of all dream characters from scratch, but we may be able to use other 3-D objects already at hand, such as children’s toys lying around the house (or the therapy office for those of us that work with children). Small dolls, stuffed animals, Lego figurines, etc. can take the place of hand-made objects. This can be beneficial to the dreamer, who may not have access to other means of exploring dreams in 3-D space, such as in group work. In groups, each member can play the roll of a dream character for the dreamer. That, too, is a luxury, because dream groups are not held in every city, every week or month, let allow ones with a Gestalt orientation. Without willing participant bodies consistently available or personalized hand-made dream representations, easily available objects could suffice. Do any of you relate to your dreams in this way? I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it out because it left a strong impression.
In addition to workshops, other creative activities abound at IASD conferences. There is a dream telepathy contest modeled off of New York’s Maimonides Medical Center telepathy experiments from decades ago under Dr. Ullman and Dr. Krippner (here I am with Maureen, “the sender” for this years contest), a dream art exhibition featuring fine art in various media from artists worldwide, and on the final evening, a dream ball where attendees dress in a costume from a dream and are invited to share the dream if desired. If you missed us this year, you can find us –and the fun- next year. IASD’s 2019 conference will be held in Kerkrade, Netherlands. For more information, go to www.asdreams.org
Hope to see you there,
More and more people are becoming familiar with the concept of lucid dreaming, or dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. Would you like to learn how to experience this wonderfully amazing state? For starters, there are some basics to understand as you dive in. This month’s article will feature Dr. Clare Johnson’s “golden tools” for a lucid mindset, particularly, the first of her three golden tools: Intent.
Now before taking a good look at our intention for dreaming consciously, it is necessary to note the importance of using a dream journal. Logging dreams as a daily practice builds our relationship with them. By doing so, we are essentially telling ourselves how important our dreams are and that they are worthy of our attention and our time. Some people use a basic notepad, but I like to use journals that are special and more decorative or unique from the everyday notebooks that I use to jot down ideas or thoughts. This spring, I met Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios in Grass Valley, California. I was amazed by his craftsmanship, and the time he dedicated to making one-of-a-kind handmade books and journals. I thought, “Now this is a real dream journal – one to hold my most meaningful lucid dreams.” Here is Al in the construction process.
Once we are well on our way to recording our dreams, no matter how vague, short, or mundane, we can trust that more will come. Once we make this habitual, it’s a fine time to seriously consider our intention – Dr. Johnson’s first golden tool. She notes that setting a basic intention such as, “I want to have a lucid dream” is too broad, too empty. Instead, get specific and bring the intention alive by feeling excitement and liveliness for the journey you are embarking on. Furthermore, investigate the specific action you want to take in the lucid dream. Spend time thinking about this action as you go about your day. For example, I decided that I wanted to visit Egypt’s Giza Plateau the next time I became lucid in a dream. And how would I do this? By lucidly flying in my dream body, of course! During my waking hours, in preparation, I spent time looking at colorful photos of the pyramids and wondered what it would be like to fly across the country and the sea. Would I be able to control my speed? Would I be able to see the ground and sea below? (In one particularly memorable experience, I found that, yes, I was able to do these things in my lucid dream excursion to the Giza Plateau, and it was truly amazing).
Before going to sleep, lie quietly and imagine successfully experiencing your chosen action. This sets a strong intention, and the likelihood of recalling your plan in the dream state will be higher. Dr. Johnson reminds us that sometimes we prefer not to change the lucid dream, instead going along with whatever unfolds. If this is the case, as we lie down, we can imagine how awesome it would be to explore the lucid dream space, consciously taking in the details. Do not underestimate the practice of visualization. It really does support conscious dream experiences.
Another way of setting intent is to draw a picture or make a collage of your intended lucid dream action, according to Dr. Johnson. I have yet to do this, but plan to start adding this creative element to my repertoire, as it sounds powerfully effective. What a way to engage willpower, curiosity and enthusiasm!
Finally, we can elicit assistance from our dreaming mind. Offer gratitude for a fulfilling lucid dream, or “strike a deal,” as Dr. Johnson suggests. For example, ask your dreaming mind to help you become lucid in exchange for keeping a consistent dream journaling practice. You may begin noticing lucidity cues. Dr. Johnson began making mixed media collages to enhance her dream imagery, only later to notice that the collages began to turn up in her dreams as a cue to become lucid. She shares other striking examples, so, I suggest taking a look at her book to discover them.
I hope this has inspired you to set an intention for your dream life, as we may spend anywhere between 45-60 hours a week sleeping. Dreaming lucidly, consciously, can change not just the way we experience sleep, but the way we experience the waking state, our day-to day existence. Truly, it can change our lives.
Wishing you restful sleep and peaceful dreams,
*Find Dr. Clare Johnson’s second and third ‘golden tools for a lucid mindset’ in her book Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness.
*To reach Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios directly (and see photos of his gorgeous hand-crafted journals), email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Armor. It’s not a word I often hear, so I was a little surprised to dream of such a concept. Armor can be thought of as a protective layer intended to deflect or diffuse damaging forces. The phrase, a knight in shining armor evokes a strong image, yet armor can be many things. Surely, it can be more than a physical object. And ‘damaging forces’ entail more than swords or bullets. Armor, in a psychological sense, acts as a coping mechanism to protect from emotional pain.
While the word ‘armor’ is not part of my everyday vocabulary, the act of armoring is a frequent experience for most of us. It’s the way our unconscious distorts the body. It happens unconsciously. When do we, as people, armor ourselves? Armoring can take place when suppressing emotion, holding in truths, and inhibiting ourselves in various ways, to start. Armoring happens when our authentic self is not permissible or allowed.
Could long-term armoring lead to disease and illness? Some would say yes, as emotional experience has a relationship with physiology. As a result of armoring, we may encounter physical and physiological symptoms. Considering that what happens internally is expressed externally, in our posture, and musculature, we may become aware of a hunched back, tight jaw muscles, or an overall stiffness, for example. The impact of armoring can be invisible as well, such as when we do not allow a full exhale to happen. It’s good to know that releasing years of armoring is possible. These insights and ideas come from Wilhelm Reich and the field of somatic psychology. Somatic psychology gives great attention to the embodied self. Body-oriented therapies are shown to help greatly in this area.
Like body-oriented therapies, dreamwork also provides an opportunity to attend to one’s embodied self. In California, many licensed psychologists and psychotherapists are experienced dreamworkers, offering individual and group dreamwork sessions. There are various types of dreamwork – Gestalt dreamwork is one example. Through dreams, we can see ourselves in different ways. Dreams are said to reflect many things, such as unconscious processes, adaptation, attention needed in some aspect of the waking physical life, and much more. Dreams can be a source of guidance and even provide concrete information. Dreams can also reveal aspects of our authentic self. A dream may even prompt one to schedule an appointment with physician or a therapist. While dreamwork can take various forms, one way to begin (after recording the dream) is to focus on the imagery. Often there is a central image. Stay with the image and give it life in order to understand it at deeper levels. As an artist, I prefer to draw or paint my dreams. Others act out the dream in dream-like theater. With lucid dreaming, we can ask the dream to bring a healing figure to assist us, or to show us how to heal ourselves. These are just some of the possibilities.
Below, I’ll share a portion of one of my recent dreams and the evolving process that, for me, followed naturally. In the first part of my dream,
Damaging forces abound. An adolescent girl (who may represent one aspect of myself) is being protected by a small group of caring adults, both male and female. The adults work at the girl’s group home or residential treatment center. We are outdoors, in town somewhere, under the bright sun. In particular, one of the adult females (who I understand to be my primary self), is very concerned and protective of the girl. She gently places her arm around the girl, kissing her on the forehead with wet eyes, as the girl removes her body armor (in the form of a metal body suit, somewhat similar to chain mail).
In the dream state, I experienced this scenario with the body armor as the strong central image, leading me to pay attention to my own armoring, its potential health impact, and to begin to seek solutions. As part of my own dreamwork process, I felt compelled to recreate the metal body suit, which I did by knitting with some thin wire. Not easy! Later, I represented the image in a painting (shown here). This is just the beginning of re-establishing my relationship with armor – a concept I had set aside, for the most part, since graduate school.
There is no end to this story. Armor must first be known, even allied, before it can be shed. And in order to shed, one must create a safe environment (perhaps with a therapist) before the armor will even budge. If we allow it, we can see truth with our dream ‘eyes.’ Dreams have a way of making the unconscious, conscious. Dreamwork acknowledges that consciousness and the authentic self continue to develop. Evolving interpretations are at play.
May your dreams be your medicine,
*I’d like to thank Dr. Jennifer Tantia of New York for her consultation with this article. She can be reached at http://www.soma-psyche.com