Most of us are familiar with the religious practices of prayer, fasting, good works, scripture study, service, regular attendance, tithing, and so on. While their merits cannot be denied, unfortunately traditional religious practices do not automatically lead to lasting healthy changes in personality, behavior, relationships or quality of life. Nor do they signify spiritual maturity.
In contrast, regular practices that connect our inner and outer lives and have self-discovery as their goal bring about positive growth in every area of our lives. Some examples are meditation, active imagination, psychological studies, creative expression, symbol work, dreamwork, body work, breath work, art, depth analysis, remything our lives to honor the feminine unconscious, journaling, and ritual.
Knowing this, many religious groups today sponsor ongoing dream groups. I have discussed the value of dreams and conducted dream workshops for Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Unitarian Universalists. Jeremy Taylor, a Unitarian Universalist minister, has written books about understanding dreams from a psychological perspective. And John Sanford, author of Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language, was both a Jungian analyst and Episcopal priest. These religious leaders understand that the aims of religion are compatible with those of psychology. They know that we need not fear our dreams, for they come to bring compassion, healing and wholeness. Aren’t these the goals of every authentic religion?
For many years I helped the Rev. Greer McBryde, an Episcopal priest, work with her dreams. Like many intelligent and ambitious women, over time she had developed a more conscious and accepting relationship with her masculine side than her feminine. But when she began to experience health problems and have disturbing dreams that seemed to warn of disastrous consequences if she continued to pursue her single-minded Warrior attitude and lifestyle, she realized she needed to give more time to her Mother. So she took an early retirement to rest, rediscover her center, and devote her energies to her relationships with herself and her family. Some time later she sent me this dream:
I am having a baby and the full-term child is born. It is a big baby with a full head of hair and eyes wide open. It is full of energy and ready for life. A nurse takes the baby from my body to clean her. When she hands the baby back to me she is small, hairless, and very delicate with almost transparent skin. She is so small that she fits in the palms of my hands.
Greer says of her dream, “I believe that I have given birth to a new me, and it was time for that to happen (the baby is full term). This was not premature nor was the child in any way not ready for life. When my nurse (the part of me that is a caretaker) returned her to me, I saw and felt how small and fragile this new life really was. I would have to handle her very carefully and nurture her with gentleness. That new life has been put into hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.”
As Mother’s Day approaches, Greer’s dream reminds me that tending new life, whether in the form of personal growth or societal reforms, is the province of our feminine, nurturing sides. Everyone has one. Yet many seemingly mature religious and political leaders are still so deeply suspicious of femininity and their own feminine sides that they would rather perpetuate blatantly dysfunctional masculine attitudes than support the fragile feminine growth that is full of energy and ready for life in ourselves and the world.
Fortunately, Dream Mother’s nightly guidance is available to all. Each of us can, like Greer, learn how to listen, receive, and mother new feminine life in gentle hands that are capable of allowing her to grow.
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks .