Care of the soul is my vocation and my privilege. I am trained in a number or approaches and disciplines, but the thing that has stayed with me through the course of a lifetime is this: People who honor their dreams and listen for their message are almost always blessed beyond measure. When I pay attention to my own dreams—writing them down, sharing them with trusted friends, dialoguing with dream figures, or creating rituals—impossible challenges and chaotic situations are transformed into opportunities for growth and healing.
Dreaming is the most innately creative experience that most of us have. Artists are people who are able to bring an expression of dreams into waking life. Poems or paintings inspired by dreams often speak of universal themes shared by all of humanity throughout time. Reading a poem or seeing a play or a film, walking through an art gallery, we often feel we’re into familiar territory that resonates deep within our bones and sings to our souls. Dreams tap into a universally shared layer of human consciousness that C.G. Jung called the Collective Unconscious.
Other cultures have known more than we do about tapping into the wisdom of the unconscious. The ancient Greeks believed that dreams were visitations from the gods. Judeo-Christian tradition, as expressed in the Hebrew Bible, is well-grounded in the tradition of dreams. The origin of dreams was the same for the Hebrews and the Greeks—they were considered to be divine communication. As these ancient people shared their dreams and told their stories, healing happened, both for individuals and for the larger community.
We Americans–committed as we are to notions of independence and rugged individualism—often don’t see the connection between our inner worlds and the larger world community. We’ve been blessed for a long time with the luxury thinking we could single-handedly shape our individual fates, and of seeing our country as safely separate from the world. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we realize that we are not so separate or safe at all, and our first impulse is to jump into an “us” versus “them” mentality—a reactionary literalism that reassures us that we are the good guys, and that our only task is to vanquish the foe.
Now, I’m not a historian or a military strategist. I can’t pretend to know what the outer-world response to terrorism should be. But I do believe that those of us who do our inner work—who claim our own shadow-selves and acknowledge our own darkness—are contributing to world peace through making peace with ourselves. We are less likely to be arrogant or self righteous. We are freer to compassionately listen for the sub-text beneath the fear that dominates our world.
Dream-work, then, is radical work. It is a living prayer that dares to say: My ordinary life matters. My work toward inner peace somehow contributes to the cause of creating a peaceful world.
I think of dreams as love letters from God. When you receive a love letter, you don’t analyze it with a “What does this mean?” approach. You simply read the letter—often again and again. You learn more about both yourself and your beloved by reveling in the experience of being cherished. You appreciate the nuances of meaning and mood that are expressed through the language of the letter.
Through dream-work, we ask, “How am I being cherished and claimed by the Beloved through this time in my life? What can I learn about myself and my life situation? What is the poetic language (because dreams always speak poetically) of the dream suggesting to me?”
I invite you to do dream-work with me.
In this section, I will include your dreams and my responses—and perhaps the responses of other readers who want to contribute to the dialogue. Click HERE to learn how you can participate.