Have you ever had a dream in which a color stood out so strongly that it somehow felt important? Robert J. Hoss, author and host of a great newly designed website called DreamScience, says that’s because it is. A former scientist and applied researcher, Bob retired early to devote his science and management skills to dream studies. His Transformative Dreamwork protocol is based on a unique blending of research and psychology: Gestalt work, Jungian theory and practice, the neurobiology of dreaming, plus his research into the significance of color in dreams.
During the last few months I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions as I’ve tackled the myriad final details required by my publisher. And I don’t use the word “tackled” carelessly. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m tackling this book. Other times it feels like the book has tackled me. And once in a while I feel like I might just win the game. I’ve had some interesting dreams related to all these emotions featuring vivid colors so I visited Bob’s site to see what new information I could find.
To illustrate, here’s a summary of Dream #5014:
I‘m in a big house filled with messes. I don’t think it’s my house, and they’re not my messes, yet I’m responsible for them. A mother marmalade cat is licking the carpet where two kittens have urinated on it. I hope it doesn’t smell. Whose kittens are these and why are they in the house? Who are all these people milling around looking for places to sit down and eat? And why is it my job to clean off tables and find chairs and china and silverware? It’s very frustrating and burdensome.
The scene shifts. I’m leading people on a tour down a stairway into a vast hall. The walls are painted a mixture of whitish rose smeared over a deep red. All the decorative touches, lamps, and sconces are gold. It’s beautiful and I feel very much at home in it, but I’m afraid the others will think it’s tacky and overdone.
Then I’m walking into a basement with a yellow/orange kitten lying on the floor. A determined-looking young man drives a green tractor straight through the room, hits the kitten, and blood spills out everywhere. The orange mother cat runs to it and licks it. One leg is bloody and swollen, but everything else is fine. The mother turns away and rushes toward a big open tote bag lying on the floor. With a fierce, angry look she attacks the bag and jumps inside it. I smile to myself thinking about how cats love to play in bags and boxes. It seems fitting somehow that in the midst of all this horror and mess, the cat is both attacking and playing with the bag at the same time.
Bob’s site is full of useful information, videos, online courses, and radio shows. It’s very easy to negotiate, so I went to the information tab and clicked on “Working with Color in Dreams.” There I found a wonderful color questionnaire from his book, Dream Language, which you can download from his site for free. It includes tables with associations to colors that you can use to see what statements and themes trigger your own personal associations to the symbols and events of the dream.
I had been puzzled by the huge red walled hall, but now I get it. Here are the themes for red that resonated strongly with me. Thrown out and attracted to the outer world. Activity.Disruption. Yes. My life has been totally disrupted by this book that has consumed my thoughts day and night. There are always messes to clean up. Emotionally determined action. For sure. And courage. It takes guts to put myself out in the world with this book. And I am, indeed, worried about how others will react to it.
What about the green tractor? Two themes for green feel especially relevant to this dream. First, hard work and drive will gain me recognition and self-esteem. Drive? Why didn’t I think of that? Way down in the basement of my unconscious my writer animus is hell-bent on driving that tractor through the room and he’s determined to succeed. And second, detail and logic are important here. Anyone who’s ever had to locate sources, get permissions for images, compile bibliographical information, fill out a marketing spreadsheet, and write citations according to the Chicago Manual of Style knows exactly what I’m talking about.
And the orange cat? Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, and represents enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, determination, and stimulation. Yes, I’ve been feeling that too. That part of this process has been wonderful. It’s very comforting that the dream ends like this.
I hope you’ll check out Bob Hoss’s site. If you’re interested in dreams, you’ll love it.
What follows is copied from this morning’s dream journal. It seems a fitting post for the holiday season this year. May you find meaning and hope in it during this dark, chaotic time.
Dream #5,000: Tree of Life
I’m in a room in which someone has set up a small square table, like a card table, and covered it with a white cloth. Toward the back center of the table is a small live, potted tree. The front of the table is empty, as if this is a serving table for a Christmas feast and the platters and bowls of food will be placed there.The tree is around 2 feet high. It’s a bit wonky, like Charlie Brown’s little tree, with five skimpy branches sprouting from either side of a central trunk. But unlike Chuck’s tree, it’s not an evergreen with leaves and greenery. It’s a deciduous tree which has shed its old leaves for the winter. This makes sense, since it’s the dead of winter. The branches of this tree are dotted with unusually large, obviously ripening buds which make me think of ornaments on a Christmas tree. As I awaken I hear myself narrating a description of the tree saying, “The Tree of Life, laden with buds (I wrote bulbs) and the promise of new life.”
This dream is very meaningful to me for several reasons. First, because at my first Wise Women’s group meeting a few weeks ago, Jan told us about a group of women who sponsor a movement to plant new trees in the deforested belt around the planet. At the end of our meeting I suggested that we all try to incubate a tree dream to share at our next meeting after the holidays. I was hoping to find some guidance and meaning for our group about the danger of deforestation that is threatening our planet. That night I had dream #4990 with images of a few trees with a few green leaves, but it didn’t bowl me over and I’ve had no more dreams about trees since. Until last night.
Second, last night, knowing the next dream I recorded and worked on would be my 5,000th, I again asked Dream Mother to please bring me an extra special tree dream. Boy, did she deliver!
I awoke some time around 4:00 with the image of this dream and the realization that I was repeating its final words about the Tree of Life. After that I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I got up, wrote it down, went back to bed, and starting thinking about my associations with it. The first thing I thought of was my blog post from some years ago about the symbolic meaning of dreams. I guess that’s what gave me the idea to post this one today.
Next, I thought about what I’ve been writing about in my next book and realized that the Tree of Life represents the trinitarian third force which brings unity between opposites, not just as a metaphysical reality, but also as a physical one. Metaphysically, a tree is an image of the Philosopher’s Stone. Physically, it is a metaphor for the human body, with its central trunk, five appendages (head, arms, and legs), and a feminine and masculine side. This reminded me of the Kabbalah’s sephirot which, in Judaism, represents the divine in humanity and also has a feminine and masculine side.
Then I realized that the Jewish menorah is a Tree of Life too — with its central candle-holder trunk, and four candle holders on each side — and that this image is also like the sephirot. Plus, the lighting of the menorah candles celebrates the divine spark of light, wisdom and divine inspiration that we bring to fullness in ourselves with our spiritual work. The reference to light reminded me of the confusion I had when writing down the dream about the similarity between the words “buds” and “bulbs” — buds signaling new life, and Christmas tree bulbs representing the return of light, and with it, new life.
Another thought was that the Tree of Life, the sephirot, the menorah, and the Christmas tree are all images of the Great Mother, or Sacred Mother, who births new life and light via the buds that will blossom into leaves and flowers with the return of spring. So it’s also an image of the Sacred Feminine which has lain dormant for so long in the collective unconscious but is now showing signs of rebirth. This gives me hope. With women becoming more involved in positions of authority and taking on projects like planting new trees, perhaps they can also influence the world’s governments to take this and other ecological threats more seriously. If they succeed, just as the darkness and barrenness of winter is always followed by the light and new growth of spring, Mother Nature can restore the health of our planet with her natural cycles of life. May it be so.
Finally, the dream felt like a reward from my unconscious for all the work I’ve been doing on my dreams over the last 30 years. It seems to suggest that at my age I am still capable of sprouting with new life, and it made me feel known and loved by the Sacred. It felt like an affirmation and validation of what I’m writing about in my new book, and gave me hope that it might be well-received by the collective. So after lying awake thinking about my 5,000th recorded dream for the rest of the night, I arose at 7:30 and began making revisions to the last chapter based on what I learned from it.
Thank you to my readers for your many gifts of wisdom through the years. May your holiday season be filled with light, wisdom, new life, and divine inspiration.
Image credits: Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree, https://www.macys.com/, The Tree of Life Metal Menorah by Scott Nelles, https://www.artfulhome.com/
It’s the eve of the election. This dream arrived the night before last.
#4984: The Little Boy Doesn’t Want to Learn
I’m in a new place – it feels like a room in a children’s school — with a few other very likable men and women. We are making packets of information for the children. I’m supposed to prepare the covers of the packets. The teacher let them write their names on the covers in magic marker. They must be four- or possibly five-year olds, judging by their writing. I have a packet with the name Mary Ma….. (something…can’t remember her last name). I see Raffa written after her name and it looks like my writing. It doesn’t belong there so I‘m trying to erase it. But I can’t, because it’s in magic marker. Also, the packet has a nubby fabric texture, almost like fleece, which makes it especially difficult to erase. I ask for a new, clean packet for this child to start over with but the teacher tells me there aren’t any more. There’s only one for each child.
A little boy is here now and needs his packet. I tell the others where it’s hanging, over to the left on that wall. Each packet is hung on a peg which also holds a set of keys. Someone goes over, finds his, and brings it to the boy. But he ignores it. It’s got everything he needs in it, even the keys, and all the information and directions for his task, but he won’t even look at it. He doesn’t want to use it. He wants to play without having to apply himself. I feel sorry for him. It could be so easy if he’d just look at the materials right in front of him and learn from them. He’s making it so hard on himself by resisting. It’s such a shame.
This is how I feel about this new book. I’m preparing this “packet” of information. It contains guidelines for the work of self-discovery — a set of keys that can open doors to the unknown world within. But it’s been very difficult…it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m having to face some harsh realities about myself and sometimes my inner little boy just doesn’t want to do the hard work. And I know there are a lot of people who won’t read my book for the same reason. And that’s hard too.
But this dream also shows me how I feel about the problems we face in America on the eve of this election. It’s about all those who want a patriarchal God to come down here and fix everything. And if not God, then maybe a big, powerful, important man who makes our fears go away when he says, “It’s bad out there. But don’t worry. I’ll fix it.”
The time has come to take the heroine’s journey. We each have our own packet, our own keys, our own task. We each need to look into the book of our own life, descend to the underworld, and suffer like Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth when all her worldly belongings were stripped from her and she was hung on a meathook.To suffer like Mary, the Queen of Heaven, who watched the political power in her country crucify her son. To suffer like Psyche, beloved of Eros, who had to do all the impossible tasks that Aphrodite, goddess of love, assigned to her to force her to grow up. She knew she couldn’t do them and admitted it. And only when she crumbled in humility and despair did the solutions come. The healing power of nature, of the soul, took over and gave her the assistance she needed.
It’s time to peel away the patriarchal layers of busyness and competition. Of materialism. Of ladder-climbing back-stabbing to acquire the outer trappings of success. Time to stop projecting our fear and hatred onto scapegoats. Time to stop living lives devoid of all soul, all spirit, all meaning. Time to stop pushing away other people, other ideas, new solutions. Time to see what’s right in front of us and learn from it. Time to stop looking to Big Daddy to save us. Time to empower our fuller selves, to accept our individual responsibility to be part of a global solution.
Our assignment at this point in history is to follow the maidens, mothers, queens, and crones down deep into the underground of our true selves. To find out who we really are and what our souls really need. To admit we can’t escape reality by denying it. Time to find our own vulnerable places and let our carefully constructed walls crumble around us. To tap into the sadness and grief, fear and dread. To let it all out and learn from it in the privacy of our own meditations. To trust in the core of love at our center, and to make the choices our soul wants us to make.
Big Daddy’s not going to save us. My book is not going to save us. Everybody has to write and read their own book, find meaning in their own life, and save themselves. You can save yourself. You can choose. Choose the Third Way. Choose love.
P.S. I’ve met another wise woman. Thank you, Janice, for your inspiration today for this post.
“Aaarg, this is grueling,” I growl to myself as I pick up the next book I need to read. I’m feeling frustrated. I want to work on my book. Analyze ideas and tie them together with other ideas. Find flaws in imperfect sentences and paragraphs. Mold them into clearer, more precise ones. Feel the pleasurable high that writing always brings.
Mentally gritting my teeth, I remind myself this is something I have to do. Comparing the manuscript I’m working on with similar books on the market is an important part of the proposal I will submit to potential publishers, but I’ve been dragging my heels to get it done. Recording and analyzing the dream I had last night was so much more meaningful and fun.
I read for a while, underline passages, take notes, decide to take a break. I’ve been neglecting social media for a while so I go to Facebook. The first thing I see is a note from a friend who’s just finishing her first book. She writes, “I trust your new book is coming along well, Jean. I will be working closely with Jill myself when I get home from Mexico. I’m both a little nervous and excited! I guess those emotions are close enough to be compatible…”
Jill Swenson is a book developer my friend and sister author Elaine Mansfield introduced me to. Elaine thought so highly of her that I decided to consult her about my new venture. This book is a real bear and I need help.
I smile at Jenna’s words. I can relate. Big time. I pause. Think. Then write:
“You’re right, Jenna. The two emotions are compatible, as are many other conflicting ones. And I think this is inevitable and necessary. My project of updating, revising, and cutting 535 pages I wrote over 20 years ago down to less than 200 and doing a ton of annoying research to create a thorough proposal is a real challenge.
“This book is the hardest one yet. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between the frustration and self-criticism of “I can’t do this,” and the excitement and elation of “Oh, wait, I can do this,” for about 6 months now, and making pretty good progress anyway. Then just when I think I’m getting over this ping-pong process I have a dream like the one last night.
I’m at a travel stop and keep going back and forth between a dingy, disorganized and frustrating inn where I can’t even get something to eat and and the delightful landscape just outside the door: a vast beautiful plain carpeted in lush green grass harboring two big friendly and furry bizarre animals — one of whom speaks in a melodious voice and offers me a piece of candy — all of it ringed by distant misty mountains.
“This picture of my current emotions shows me I’m still conflicted but not fighting the process. Just feeling what I feel, comfortable and uncomfortable, and accepting it. I think that’s at least partly because I have Jill to steer me through it. She’s been a real treasure. You’ll love working with her. Having just described this dream here I’m reminded that it’s been a while since I’ve published a new blog post and this would be a good subject for it! I think that would be a nice break for me at the moment. Thanks for the prod!”
It’s amazing how refreshed I feel after writing this post just now. I needed this. Thank goodness for Facebook friends. And thank you also for my Twitter and WordPress friends. It’s been too long since I’ve communicated with you and I’ve missed you. Thank you most of all to Jill, who will understand better than anyone how badly I needed this break and how restorative it’s been. Sending love to all of you.
Surprise! I’m back with an update. Reworking my old manuscript is bringing enormous satisfaction. My unconscious is sending solutions to knotty problems via my dreams and early morning ruminations before I’m fully awake. I’m meditating for 20 minutes before I get to work and writing for hours at a time. The latest entries in my dream journal say it all.
I’m teaching a one-hour college class in Language Arts. I have two pages of written notes stuck to a clipboard and am carefully peeling them off so I can hold them in my hands while I teach. Little chunks of the bottom of the second page stick to the board, but there’s nothing written on them so I won’t worry about them now. I suddenly realize I’ve spent the first 15 minutes getting my notes together and have no idea what’s in them. I feel an urgency to start teaching.
I start quieting everyone down, but interruptions and distractions prevent me from actually teaching. This is okay with me, because I can use this time to figure out what to talk about. I hope I’ll know by the time the class is ready to listen. A mother comes in late with two little girls. I don’t want them here but realize she must not have a choice so I smile to let them know it’s okay, all the while hoping she’ll keep them from disturbing the class. A loud male student gets my attention and I firmly ask him to quiet down. I realize I was too harsh and could have handled this better. I see I’ve used up another 15 minutes.
In the third 15 minutes the little girls fall backwards into a deep hole or well in the floor—it’s round and maybe 4 feet deep. The girls are submerged in a foot or two of water. I’m worried, but the mother doesn’t appear to be. They’re holding their breath and enjoying themselves. I decide they’ll come up when they’re ready and continue thinking about what to teach. But soon everyone is gathered around and I can’t ignore the situation anymore so I ask the parents (the father is here now) to pull them out.
Now I only have 15 minutes left. What’s the best way to use this time? I realize I haven’t given them the course syllabus yet. They need it to prepare for their end-of-semester project. I try to remember what it is. Oh yes, they have to create original learning centers. I feel better now. I know what to say before the class is over and I have to leave. I organize my thoughts and begin to teach.
This feels like a metaphor for the way I’ve spent my time in Earth School.
During the first quadrant I unconsciously spent my time preparing myself, gathering information without having a clue about what I was meant to do with my life.
In the second quadrant I was teaching and becoming aware of forces within me that were preventing me from finding and fulfilling my life’s work. One challenge was juggling parenthood with teaching and learning. Another was some strong masculine energy that presented me with problems I didn’t know how to handle gracefully.
During the third quadrant I committed myself to dreamwork as a means of self-discovery and wrote my first three books. At last I knew what my purpose was: to share what I knew about the transformation of human consciousness. Sometimes my immature feminine shadow fell back into unconsciousness. But I knew the importance of my mission and had the awareness to ask the Self (the parents) to bring her back into awareness.
In the final quadrant where I am now, I know how little time I have left to fully prepare my students (whoever might be influenced by my teaching and writing) for what is to come. Now I know what to do and am doing it.
There’s a girl-woman I know well who’s done something problematic. She’s got a bandaged wound. I’ve apprehended her and have to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she doesn’t escape and create more problems. This feels extremely important. Occasionally I take her by the wrist to keep her near. She’s pleasant and compliant, but I can’t trust her.
The girl is my feminine shadow. The dream says I am seeing her clearly and objectively. When I stay with her she’s not a problem. But if I fall back into unconsciousness and forget to watch her, she will resurrect and negatively impact my work and relationships.
Staying conscious is vital to this last quadrant of my life. I meditate every day now to be more mindful of subtle thoughts and inclinations that might prevent me from doing my best work. When something uncomfortable emerges I align with my observer/Self to look at myself objectively, recognize my shadow, and gently bring myself back into a place of repentance, forgiveness, gratitude and love. Making this effort is working.
Sending you love and blessings, dear friends. I’m having the time of my life.
I’ve always been proud of my country. As a child, I thought the Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver symbolized everything good about the U.S.A.: respect for human rights, individuality and diversity, strength of character, integrity, commitment to our civic responsibility to protect the weak, the helpless, the innocent and poor. But if there were any vestiges of that naïveté left in me before this presidential race, they’re gone now.
Never have I ever felt so disillusioned about America. Never have I, like award-winning novelist Barbara Kingsolver, taken a political race so personally. The constant reminders of our collective shadow have been monumentally toxic and I’m sick of it. But I didn’t realize how sick until last week’s dream of a white horse.
Dream #4792: I’m in a house (my psyche) where several people (inner characters) are attending a retreat. Two persistent and annoying women (parts of my shadow) want my attention and feel sorry for themselves when I don’t give it. An elder white-haired man summons me outdoors where I’m given responsibility for a white horse (powerful unconscious emotions). Its owner (aspect of my animus) is in the house. He has neglected it so badly that it’s ill. The old man leaves the horse with me. Annoyed at the owner’s negligence, worried and sad about the horse’s condition, I caress it lovingly. When I turn my back on it to go and notify the owner, it crumples behind me and lies there, pitiful, sad, and listless.
That morning the sad feelings lingered so I searched Google and found this blog post from 2009.
Jung & Horse
Mark Wallinger’s White Horse Sculpture
“There has been a massive outpouring of love for Mark Wallinger’s white horse, the 165 foot sculpture which will be placed at the new International Rail Terminal at Ebbsfleet, Kent. This is interesting for many reasons, not least because public art isn’t usually enjoyed by the lay person, ironic and upside down as that may sound. The iconic white horse has captured something in the collective consciousness, something primal and English to its core. Today, I stumbled upon this piece of an essay by equine behaviourist Chris Irwin:
“Clearly, some link between horses and the human psyche was surfacing. I’ve since learned that there is a branch of psychoanalysis, pioneered by Carl Jung, that tries to weave a balance between the outer world of action and events and the inner world of dream, fantasy and symbolism. A distinguishing feature of Jungian analysis is the concept of archetypes, symbols rising from the dark, deep psychic pool of the collective unconscious where humanity’s common experience is stored.
“Archetypes express a complex of images and emotions that surround the defining experiences of human life. Examples include the Hero, the Divine Child, the Great Mother, Transformation, Death and Rebirth. They are the same for us all, no matter who we are or where we come from. It’s as if they are built into the wiring of our brains. And one of the most commonly recurring archetypes is – you guessed it – the Horse.
Some of my horse books.
“The Horse archetype throughout the ages has been closely linked with our instinctive, primal drives. Jung thought the Horse’s appearance could signify instincts out of control. The horse evokes intense feelings and unbridled passion instead of cool, collected thought.
“In many different situations and in many different ways, horses were enabling people to make contact with feelings they’d buried deep inside their shadow. There didn’t seem to be any doubt that equine-assisted therapy worked. The question was, why?
“Horses, by embodying one of the deepest archetypes in our consciousness, most definitely stir us up. All those things that are buried away or girdled safely up start swirling around in our psyches. Horses can be a direct connection into the unconscious. When we look at a horse, and especially when there’s a horse strutting across the pen in front of us, we see the flesh-and-blood incarnation of powerful forces bottled up within us that we wish we had the guts to saddle and ride.
More of my horse books.
“These are the forces that Jung called the shadow self. We know those forces could take us to our dreams and turn us into our best selves. We also know those forces could destroy us. That’s why we bottle them up in the first place. And when feelings are stirred-up and agitated, that’s when we have the chance to work with them and learn to control them. Horses give us this opportunity. They do this to us whether we’re aware of it or not. But what a powerful tool to be able to use consciously!
“Carl Jung also talked a lot about life’s paradox, and how important the embrace of seeming contradictions is as we travel the never-ending journey towards becoming fully human. Horses, which can both free us or hurt us, embody this paradox. How we handle this paradox in the arena becomes a metaphor for how we handle it everywhere. Only in this case, it’s such a potent and direct metaphor, that we can use it to change our reality. Horses force us to face our shadow selves. Once we do that, we discover much greater freedom, exhilaration and inspiration as we go forward in life.” ~Chris Irwin, author of Horses Don’t Lie
Dream Mother gave me the perfect image to get my attention. My white horse was suffering the consequences of intense bottled up feelings: grief, empathy, agitation, worry and self-pity, plus concerns about my recent diminishment of life energy, my neglected need for self-love and care, and my country’s neglected need for self-love and care.
As I write this it’s the day before the election. If Hillary is elected, I’ll celebrate. Either way I’ll be facing my shadow as I get on with my life. I hope Uncle Sam will too. I won’t turn my back on either of us.
A final note: I’ve just read an extraordinary article by award-winning author Barbara Kingsolver on why Trump has not been called out for the horror show he’s put our country through. If you’re still sitting on the fence about this election, I urge you to read it.
When you are in the darkness you take the next thing, and that is a dream. And you can be sure that the dream is your nearest friend; the dream is the friend of those who are not guided any more by the traditional truth and in consequence are isolated. ~Carl Jung, the Symbolic Life, CW 18, Para 674
And if you lose yourself in the crowd, in the whole of humanity, you also never arrive at yourself; just as you can get lost in your isolation, you can also get lost in utter abandonment to the crowd. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 1020
For 27 years, my spiritual practice has been dreamwork. Dreams aren’t commonly thought of as spiritual aids but they absolutely are. Carl Jung demonstrated this in The Red Book in which he recorded what he learned about himself from visions and dreams over a three year period. This formed the material and inspiration for his groundbreaking insights into the true nature of the psyche, and for his belief that acquiring self-knowledge and becoming who we truly are is our spiritual task and the privilege of a lifetime.
I wish I had understood this during the middle of my life. Throughout the 1980’s I functioned well in the outer world, juggling a home and family with college teaching. But inside I was struggling through a “dark night of the soul” crisis in which I was increasingly dissatisfied with my religion, my work, my relationships and myself.
Near the end of that decade I joined a Jungian study group. When I learned that dreams show us unknown aspects of ourselves in a visual, metaphorical, symbolic language, I began to record and work with mine. By the time I had this Big dream, I knew that taking my nocturnal dramas seriously was vital to my wellbeing.
Dream #155: “Going Against the Current.”
I’m walking downstream in a rushing river beside a rocky bank. People are shooting by on rafts and I wonder how they keep from bashing themselves against the rocks. I turn around and laboriously make my way back upstream in water up to my chin. The bottom is rough and rocky. I reach up and hold onto some thin, flimsy branches sticking out over the water. This helps, but soon there are no more and I have to go on unaided.
At the last turn I come up against thousands of people heading downstream. Friendly people press in on every side as I struggle against the current toward the place I’m supposed to be—my base camp. Sometimes I touch a head or shoulder to propel myself forward. When I reach the mouth of the river I put my palms together and gently part the people; this reminds them of Moses parting the Red Sea and they smile indulgently.
Then I’m far out in the ocean in deep water, tired and afraid. Will I make it? A younger, blond-haired woman appears, only her head showing above the water. “That was smart of you,” she says. I know she’s strong and rested and will support me if I need to float for a while. Together we head slowly to my base far away on the left shore, a place I’ve never been but know to be my destination.
In exquisitely beautiful imagery, this dream told the story of my psycho-spiritual development. It said that when I began my journey (walking) through the unconscious (water) I was still aligned with the collective (going with the flow downstream). But I had become aware of the passing of time (river) and the danger of continuing to rush mindlessly along on the path of least resistance (downstream) while ignoring my undeveloped self and unfulfilled yearnings.
Redirecting my focus to my inner world was making my journey more difficult (going upstream). The form of spiritual support (branches) I had always clung to—the heavenly spirituality of the Sky God that requires conformity to dogma—was of no further help to me (the branches disappear) and I had to continue alone.
Like the children of Israel when they crossed the Red Sea, I was leaving my slavish allegiance to the collective (crowd of people) behind, and entering the unknown: my frightening and dangerous (deep water) unconscious self (the sea). There I caught a glimpse of my anima or soul (the blond woman), the feminine half of the Self which, in Jungian language, is partner to the masculine animus or spirit. Together they form our central archetype, our God-image, symbol-maker, and connection to the Sacred. The message of this dream was that assuming my own authority and trusting myself would bring me to my true self (base camp).
Until I discovered dreamwork, no books or scriptures, no religious beliefs or sacrifices or regular church attendance, none of my ego’s hard work or good behavior, no well-intentioned thoughts or knowledge or cleverness, no psychological expert or religious authority—nothing in my life had any lasting transforming or healing power for me. But this dream from the Self did. The Self knew me. It spoke to me in the symbols of this dream which it fashioned solely for me when it knew I was ready to listen.
My Beloved knew where I’d been, what I sought, where I was going. It knew I was turning my life around beforeI did. It reassured me that replacing my old life of passionless conformity with the great adventure of exploring my unconscious self was the right choice for me. Above all, it convinced me I could trust it to tell me the truth and guide me in the direction of my heart’s desire. Eventually this knowing emboldened me to leave work for which I was ill-suited to follow my passions for writing and self-knowledge. That choice has made all the difference between a false life of meaninglessness, dissatisfaction and confusion, and the real life of increasing clarity, trust, meaning and peace I’m living now.
Contrary to popular belief, discovering and being true to who you are beneath the mask you wear, and doing it for the sake of love, is the authentic spiritual journey. What did you dream last night? What did you learn about yourself?
Photo Credit: “Going Against the Current,”Luo Quingzhen, Google Images. Salmon going upstream: unknown, Wikimedia Commons. “Danube Salmon Swimming Against the Current,” unknown, Wikimedia Commons.
The Wilbur Award is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.