sacred dreamwork

I’m on a train. Several extended family members (all deceased relatives who have died during different periods of my life) enter through doors, but not all at once. Some are already seated, while others enter through different train doors on the same long train car. We quietly acknowledge each other. The train is moving again. Some prepare to exit as the train approaches its next stop. Then, they begin to leave, some together, some solo, getting off at different stops, exiting through different doors. I am not going with them. I do not protest. After all, I know they are dead. I have my own stop, my own door. I have some awareness that I am dreaming.

In both November 2016 and 2017, conscious chimera turned attention toward some aspect of visitation dreams, shrine/altar-making, or contact with the deceased. This makes sense given the time of year. So now, as the month of the dead wraps up for 2018, attention returns to these phenomena. Above, is one of a handful of easily recalled visitation dreams that contain several of my deceased relatives all together, in the same dream space.

From my research, I learned that visitation dreams most often arise in the context of major life transitions and loss (e.g. bereaved individuals as well as those in the dying process). Jeanne Van Bronkhorst’s book Dreams at the threshold: Guidance, comfort and healing at the end of life (2015) is a notable example, providing rich information about visitations reported among these groups. The Canadian author, who worked as a hospice social worker and bereavement counselor, describes how visitation dreams bring comfort to the bereaved as well as confidence to those who are moving toward death.

In 2011, Patrick McNamara authored a Psychology Today article titled Visitation dreams: Can dreams carry messages from loved-ones who have died? McNamara shares his own experiences with visitation dreams of his parents. Each dream occurred about 6 months after each death. Even with his strong Western scientific background, he “could not shake the conviction” that true communication between he and his dead mother and father took place. Like many researchers and scholars of dreams, McNamara is aware of how little research has been carried out on this topic, all the while knowing that these types of dreams can be very helpful. He states that experiencing a visitation dream can carry a bereaved person to “successful resolution of the grieving process.”

What can one make of a visitation dream outside of bereavement or end-of-life concerns? One commonality among the visitation dreams reported by those grieving, near death, and others (who are not experiencing grief or loss) is the appearance of, along with some form of communication with, the deceased. In such cases, the deceased individual often appears more youthful and in good health. After a neighbor-acquaintance had died, he greeted me in a dream. Effortlessly moving toward me, his body was in better shape than it had been the last time I saw him alive. His essence felt light and jovial.

Another commonality among the visitation dreams of those grieving, near death, and others is that the dream structure is organized and clear. This was the case for my neighborly visitation dream, along with other visitation dreams I have experienced. None have been outlandish, disorganized, or outrageous.

While these sorts of experiences may imply a broad spiritual perspective and a conviction of after-life realities for many bereaved individuals, they may also offer the same for those not experiencing any kind of grief or loss, or those outside of deprived conditions. My neighbors dream visit served as a reminder that there is much more to see (and sense) than our physical eyes can show us. A vivid dream visitation has the potential to impact anyone! As conscious, soulful beings, these visitations can open doors and change lives.

What can be done so that meaningful dreams become more than a distant, fading memory? Having over a dozen books (perhaps even over two dozen) published on various aspects, traditions, and perspectives on dreams and dreaming, Robert Moss is known to assert, “dreams require action” – A motto by which he lives. Having learned img_2801much from his time with Iroquois, Moss writes that tending to dreams was the first order of the day for the community. Whether grief is resolved or unresolved, visitation dreams, like all big dreams, require action. We can honor our dreams and those that visit us in many ways.

A most basic, yet important way, is to document our dreams and title them. This can be done in a fancy journal or on a simple notepad, or even with a smart phone voice memo app. In addition, we may even decide to share them with others.

As an artist, I really enjoy getting creative with actions prompted by a dream. Making small altars or shrines (or adding to an already existing one) is a favorite. It is a popular as well as traditional action throughout November, especially. Altar-making allows for photos of our dream visitors to be displayed and embellished. Altars and shrines also provide a space to hold objects that may have once belonged to the deceased, as well as items the deceased favors. This space can act as a place to pray, remember, or meditate.

In a ‘working’ altar, these objects and items can be fresh flowers, water, and food, for example. Some even leave alcohol and cigarettes at the altar. In caring for any ‘working’ IMG_1883shrine or altar, it is necessary to keep the space clean and to replace foods, water, and flowers daily-to-weekly. By honoring deceased loved ones in this way, it is like we are making the statement that the relationship is important no matter on what side of the veil we exist, and that we appreciate such dream visits. Furthermore, such action and attention may prompt additional, similar dreams.

Whether we are actively grieving, aware that we are near the end of our own life, or in neither of those places at the present moment, a space exists to turn our attention toward the journey of the soul. I consider this kind of dreamwork as sacred. Truly, it is a way of life.

 

I hope your November dream-life was meaningful and memorable.

Kim

my IASD conference experience

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. img_1928IASD 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 img_1918also 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 img_2033a 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,

Kim

dreaming in arizona

With the increase in reported violence and harassment surrounding this election season, many sense a growing tension in the air. For some, it is a time of great fear and uncertainty. It is no surprise that memorable, impactful, and significant dreams are recalled during these turbulent months of 2016. One woman sent in the following for publication, here, via Conscious Chimera.

Arizona resident “G” wrote, “On June 16, 2016, Donald Trump announced he was running for President of the United States. My immediate reaction was, this was of course a joke. Some sick farce Trump had concocted for higher ratings to some new ridiculous reality show coming up in the near future. A few weeks after his announcement, I had one of the worst nightmares I ever had and prayed to God it was not some horrific prediction of days to come.”

With that, “G” reported the following dream:

In my dream, Trump was president. His nauseatingly racist, xenophobic regime was firmly established and in my nightmare, he was interning all of the Asian Americans in Arizona. Of course, I was in a state of shock and disbelief, but there I was, thinking how could this happen as Asians Americans all of the state were being corralled into buses headed toward internment camps. We were only allowed 1-2 grocery bags full of personal items. For some reason, I was dressed in a traditional red and white flowered Pilipino housedress belonging to my mother. Instead of being allowed the 2 bags of items, I was only allowed one pathetic grocery bag, which only carried a pair of underwear, toothbrush and undershirt. As I was about to embark on the bus, I turned to my house and hoped it would be okay. I was anticipating the Trump regime to confiscate the belongings as well as the house itself, just as it was during the Japanese internment in World War 2. I had a small glimmer of hope that perhaps my parents or brother could take possession of my home as my closest immediate relatives. I wondered if I could allow myself some optimism that they could salvage the equity of the home for the sake of our family’s decades of hard work. I was curious to know if or when they may be interned as Asian Americans in California. In this sickening dream, it was just Arizona that was interning Asians in the U.S. so far.

After exiting the bus, I came upon the interment camp. It was vast wasteland and I was to be interned in a grave. In the grave was a workstation and the walls of the grave where dirt was to surround my body, instead housed shelving filled with items I was to be working on for the workstation. The workstation was a table set up, factory worker style and this was where I was to work all day. I was to eat, sleep and defecate beside the worktable until the day I died. 

As I stood there feeling dejected, I crawled out of the grave and stood up on literal equal footing as the White soldiers around me and decided I was not going to allow this to be my reality and I would move to Canada.

Somewhat hopeful of my decision, I then woke up.”

She continues, “Upon waking, I was disoriented and disturbed. After gaining some composure on what I had just experienced, I decided moving to Canada was not the actual course of action I would take if this repulsive reality would ever take place, I would revolt instead. I would stand my ground on this land and fight as others did before me.

Since that terrible nightmare, Trump did become the President elect. On November 17, 2016, Trump supporter, former Navy Seal, Carl Higbie had a blatantly racist discussion on air, stating the Japanese interment was precedent set for the possibility of interning Muslims in the U.S.

Just as Hitler’s Regime did to those of Jewish descent, Trump’s factions wish to start a registry of Muslims in the U.S.

Peaceful Native Americans are being beaten, gassed and hosed with freezing water in Standing Rock, North Dakota just as peaceful African Americans were at Birmingham in the 60s.

As when I woke up from the nightmare, and the wake of the electoral college selecting Trump as President, I pray this dream was not precognitive. I believe it is an important warning and a call to action.

What happened to the Japanese American in World War 2 can not be repeated and we have a nation of people of color and supporters that will fight for equal rights.”

After reading this dream report (along with the author’s introduction and concluding statements), a wide range of thoughts and feelings arose. How many others may be dreaming like this at this time? What does it say about the future? A dream like this leaves me with more questions than answers.

I considered Carl Jung’s complementary theory and thought ‘how might this dream restore equilibrium or re-establish balance for this dreamer?’ I also wondered if a dream is regarded as a “truth-telling oracle,” as has been in the past, then what can be understood from this experience? Another approach considers the conscious and unconscious to operate as a whole, instead of existing in opposition. Could this frightening dream be a reflection of the dreamers life? Could it serve her by acting as a ‘road sign’ for what she should consider attending to today?

Montague Ullman considered dreams to be a spontaneous expression of one’s life situation. Of course, the dreamer herself would be the one to connect the dots and make the most appropriate interpretations – after all, it is her life, in which she is the expert.

…And your dreams? Does the dream reported here mirror any dream of your own lately? Whether or not that’s the case, we can learn from the dreams of others. We can see a glimpse of our own inner world reflected back. And so, as the Ullman Method of Dream Appreciation begins, “If this were my dream,…”

Happy Holidays,

Kim