Wholeness and Health are More Than Physical


When we hear the word “health” what comes to mind? Is health about feeling good? Maybe it’s about a well-maintained body? Does physical health preclude and guarantee a “life of happiness”?

Language and words are the true tools that allow for the impact of real magic. That’s why, in all the old stories, spell books were the key to understanding and owning or revealing the power of magic. Harry Potter fans know this.

Words condense energy and real meaning into power. The word “health” is a prime example. It may be one of the most sought after realities in North America, the most readily identifiable cultural value. Our very society would seem to be mainly focused on providing this beneficial state as a guarantee of the American, Western way of life… it’s also deeply connected to the Constitution (a word that can also refer to one’s physical make-up) in the promise of “the pursuit of happiness”.

Health’ has meant and stood for far more than physical wellbeing for a very long time. The origins of the word refer to a state of being whole, which itself suggests a quality of entirety or totality. Wholeness includes a whole range of states of being, non-being, and more.

When we think about or discuss health, is it possible that we’re leaving something out? What of the more-than-physical realities that are also part of being? Doesn’t health, if it really is about wholeness, also have something to do with the spirit and the soul?

Carl Jung once said, “I’d rather be whole than good”. Might it be possible that we’ve lost something in relation to our idea of what it means to be healthy?

We know, though it looks like we could easily soon forget, that healing involves more than just the physical body. We have seen how meditation, prayer, music, our attitudes, ways of being and thinking, all can deeply influence our overall health. For, isn’t it true that we have experienced times when we were physically healthy and of sound body, but we still found our selves lacking or off kilter in some profound way?

What of our feelings, our emotions and our values? When I say values, I’m not talking about moral pronouncements. More so, the meaning to be found in our lives that gives us some anchor for being able to navigate through the confusing labyrinthine structures of our lives.

How is it that a nation, so focused on the pursuit of happiness and upon physical health and wellbeing, could still be seen to experience so many troubles? Hasn’t North America been the so-called world’s leader in economics, health care (a field so strangely devoid of real “care”, at the end of the day) and technology? Why, then, hasn’t life become more attuned to the idyllic vision that is touted so proudly and by so many as the solution to the world’s ills? If we have it all figured out, why is it so readily apparent that there are so many suffering so deeply, and that there is so much discord, even here at home?


It may seem like a strange note to strike, but let me suggest that it all has to do with the fact that we have largely lost, forgotten and otherwise devalued our dreams. Dreams, far more than the mere mental confusion of the brain, offer up visions of real wholeness, each night as we go to sleep and surrender to the deeper truths to be found in our souls.

Wholeness, and therefore, health, means finding our selves able to be with ‘all that is’; our dreams reveal to us the way that health involves spirit and soul, as well. Many folks seem to think that dreams are an artifact of some psychological theories that belong only to the select few professionals that know what they’re about. Psychology is mostly now understood as the “science of the study of the mind” or of conditioned behaviors. The very word itself, however, has always meant the knowledge of the soul. Psyche is soul. Logos is knowledge. Knowing need not be reserved to factual, scientific and intellectual forms. The ancients, who coined the very word itself knew this. It is we who have turned this word, and the surrounding reality that it refers to, into a “less-than” practice of behavioral study.

Our dreams, which appear so strange and even silly at times, are seeking to remind us of the fact that real and true health is about wholeness. That’s why our dreams appear so counter to what we think we know when we’re awake. They are seeking to prove that Reality, as we could know it, has far more to do with many more realities than sheer physical health and happiness. They’re also concerned with these, but it turns out that these are only complimentary pieces in a much bigger puzzle. Life also has to do with death, with grief and joy, with struggle and work, suffering and confusion, all the elements that we seek to eradicate through a two-dimensional “good good” salute to the day and to one another.

May we look, then, to our dreams, the dreams of the past and of the present, the dreams of the future, the “dreams of our lives”, the Dream of Life and Death, for deep clues to what it is that we’re missing, that we may have attempted to rid ourselves of in a narrowing pursuit of “feel good” solutions and incomplete treatments of our own and each others lives. Something in us knows there’s more to life than the sheer physicality of existence. We also know that there’s more to all this than simply seeking to be happy – after all, that never lasts, even though it feels good and we crave it, it comes and it goes, no matter how hard we try to hold on. So, let’s get real again, and honor what people have known for ages, that there is much more to our advent here upon the Gods and Godesses Green Earth than we tend to think and believe there is.

Our health and wholeness, and that of myriad creatures, which we share the planet with are depending on it.

A Dark Dream Wine Harvest



This past week, in three dreams of various individuals, “red wine” has made an appearance in the session work we’ve been doing. Whenever a symbol makes itself known like this in the dreams, I have learned to sit up and pay attention. Repetitively appearing motifs like this that surface at a specific moment in time are very likely to have some message for all of us, in addition to the individuals having the dreams.

Historically, and therefore ancestrally, this time of year has long been associated with the time of “Harvest”. The pulling in of the fruit off the vine and the work, celebration and preparation that go along with this age-old activity would appear to be woven into the very blood of folks descended from European and even Greco-Roman descent. As dreams speak in the language of metaphor and symbol, my attention has gone towards seeking to understand why red wine is making such a striking appearance at this moment – “why these dreams now?”


I suspect that, at the very least, there are messages here about the relation of us two-legged humans to the vital, primordial, and earthbound energies of the Divine as it spontaneously chooses to involve us through the Dreaming. Wine is an alchemical substance that we’ve learned to craft out of the very cauldron of the living forces of Nature and the Cosmos. Dionysus has long been associated with this energy. It’s interesting and instructive to note that this ancient divinity of the Greek pantheon was the only figure in that archaic culture who was understood to contain both feminine and masculine attributes and qualities. This was, in part, due to his being born from a male womb – out of Zeus’s very thigh. Could these dreams be coming to say something important about the call to conjoining the opposites – as dreams so often do? The land is calling us through the dreamscape, perhaps, to see, feel and embody a deep call to becoming whole – combining land and human, stretching time and the moment, the elements and the creatures, the trees and the sky. Dionysian energy is often spoken of as androgynous, and is symbolic, at least, of the uniting of conflicting forces within and without, feminine and masculine.

Red wine also evokes memories and images of blood, and so may be coming to alert our focus of awareness to the passions that guide and inebriate us. Blood is a connecting force that holds the memory of who we have been, our ties with the earth and each other, and we speak about it as our “life’s blood”, meaning that it contains a vital essence of being without which we wouldn’t be alive.

In the oldest Dionysian cults, the very first and most spontaneous ones we know of, folks imbibed small amounts of red wine and danced and sang all as a means of “feeling the spirit”. Many cultures throughout time have spoken of wine and alcohol as “spirits”. When such energies appear in dreams, it’s always worth asking if the dreams are suggesting a connection and relationship with some form of spiritual energy, whatever else they might also be seeking to impart.


It’s been said by Marion Woodman, Sandra Lee Dennis and others that ours is a time of embodiment and that part of the invitation of the dreams is to recognize this. Perhaps, then, the dark red wine spirit of a Divine Feminine force is also seeking to get our attention through these dreams. Maybe some balancing is being hinted at here with the overly expressed, unconscious masculine forces in the world. Perhaps paying attention to and working with the dreams is a way of taking in the harvest of the natural and spirited, soulful, dark divine energy in the world and within us. Just as with wine-making, each step is a necessary ingredient in the ongoing work of transformation, change and transmutation, where we might hope that the final and long-awaited outcome will appear as a fine red wine, which we might sip in one anothers’ company, looking back on the hard work, the beauty and the tensions of the past season with an eye toward the soon to be darkening days and nights that will, if only we can allow it, enrich us in our very spirits, bodies and souls. By honoring this moment, and our deep inner, as well as vast outer Nature, we might craft a fine gift and share the bounty with all who are able to join in.

Ordeal and Return, Artful Praxis


Doesn’t it often appear as if life is an ordeal, with ever-renewing challenges, disappointments and obstacles just around the next bend? Isn’t it ironic that we exist in a culture and a time that bears so many ideas and modes about how to make life “good”, or to find a “quick fix”? Many of us may feel we ought to be able to embody the latest and most effective “self help” technique for creating some form of happiness that would seem, ultimately, to be elusive – yet, if these tactics and techniques worked, wouldn’t we be there by now? If it were simply the case that each of us only needed to generate “good thoughts”, attract “what we want” and recognize abundance, and if these is the missing keys, why are there so many who are suffering so profoundly at this time in the world and wouldn’t you know, right next door?

When I came to the crossroads of what we call “midlife” I found myself once more on the road of ashes, asking questions about who I was and why I came to be here to be alive in the first place. I was fortunate to discover vital communities in which the emphasis and focus was on witnessing each other, from the soul, amid a disciplined atmosphere where wise and instructive practices were maintained for the cultivating of deeper initiatory passages culminating for the folks involved. In being witnessed and invited to recognize a Deep Self within and also in Others, I was able to regain my focal point as a helper and to take up my task on the road of life and death, which it appears we each must travel in this lifetime.

It would seem that there might be more to the picture than meets the eye. In our western civilized pursuit to conquer and secure the wild forces that exist within as well as without, we continually find ourselves riddled by the mantra of “progress” on the one hand, and the emerging realities that appear in nature, on the other. We’ve largely divorced ourselves from the actual rhythms of the cosmos in an attempt to make our lives easier and better. So it would appear.

In America, at least, we’ve lived with the hopeful promise of psychotherapy for over a hundred years now. Why is the natural world in such a state of dire threat if we’re truly about the business of healing? Maybe we lost the thread of what it truly means to “heal”. The word itself bears origins with the word “whole”, which itself is also woven into the words “hole” and “holy”.

Folks from non-industrialized cultures, whom not a few of us have turned to over the past century to seek to understand how to live, love, grieve and die, remind us that we are essentially bound up with the age-old practices of initiation as they’ve been practiced and developed for thousands of years. Initiation rites have been a part of most, if not all, cultures around the world for ages. Even Europeans and their descendants, at some point in time, have also maintained such wisdom traditions. With the advent of empirical science, the proverbial baby was thrown out with the bathwater, however, and western cultures have turned to scientific-rational knowledge while mostly leaving the wisdom of the heart and the soul behind, “in the dust”. Our people have done so in favor of growth, development, and notions of being able to overcome illness, death and disease through medicine and technology, ‘once and for all’.

I’m not saying these efforts at creating a better life don’t have something useful or desirable in them. And yet, it’s a paradox, because the very technologies we’ve hatched seem to threaten, at the very least, our viable human future on the planet. They also currently result in the deeply ironic and mounrful extinction of approximately 200 species of life a day. Extinct means forever.

What might all of this have to do with being awake or waking up? Perhaps the time is upon us to question how we can bring our unique gifts to life and to dying, for the sake of all that lives and perishes, and not just for ourselves. Maybe the time of “self help” is dying to change into the times of an awakening to the project of “help for one and for all”.

In initiation or rites of passage, as these have been practiced and handed down through generation to generation, the idea is that something which no longer serves the individual or the culture must die away and be made sacred through the course of an ordeal. This is the critical journey that so many of us have become akin towards in our studies of mythology and everyday life.

In the modern world we seem to be going under as a result of the inability to act, see and consider beyond the “me” in the equation of life. Perhaps we got lost in a forest of “personal needs” and individual concerns. The ordeals of our lives aren’t witnessed, because those who could witness us returning from the quest are too busy marching forward, looking in the mirror, or posting another “selfie” to the Internet, feeling the need to “take care of myself” all over again. It is important to “know thyself” yet have we also forgotten to know “the Other”? Rites of passage call for a community, a village, not simply a “network” of so-called friends. In a community, old, young, in between, even friends and foes will be present. In a community, we witness one another and give space to the seeing and the acknowledging of the difficulties of the trials that have taken place during the ordeal for one another. If we aren’t welcomed back, like veterans of any war, we can’t and don’t feel or experience that we’ve returned.

When the community and the individuals within it turn their eyes and hearts to us and when we each can be seen coming back, we may know that the ordeal is, for now, finished. This allows us to offer out the boons we’ve discovered through our hardships, and helps us to clarify what it is that we came here to give to others and also to receive, our selves.


In this sense, waking up has to do with awakening to the needs of others, as well as our own, and to be recognized for our unique gifts. Each of us has a different skill and talent to bring and all are needed. With this understanding, our ability to offer what we have to give becomes recognized and we no longer find ourselves traveling the world unsure of what that is or seeking to continually convince others that we have a valuable gift in the first place.

Perhaps one of the most telling venues of this phenomenon in my own life was to be found in the professional musical circles and arenas I found myself in during my thirties. I left the helping professions when I was 33 to become an “Indie” musician for eight years. Everyone in those circles is clamoring to get noticed. Groups of performers and audiences gather to deliver and receive their supposed and apparent gifts. A common problem is that there is not enough audience to receive the offerings – everyone present says, “look at me”, “look at what I am and what I can do, isn’t this great?!” It could be an awesome venue for recognizing the return, yet, alas, the clear understanding that we each need to be witnessed for our unique gifts is not conscious or present enough for that, in almost every case.

Healing arts like Dream Work, Storytelling, Breath Work, Soul Painting and Shamanic Journeying help us get in touch with the vitalizing energies within ourselves and all of nature and assist us to seek to come into balance with the spirit and the soul, to locate and honor our “holes” and also how we might seek to feed and be fed by “the Holy”, the wholeness to be found within and without in these challenging yet enriching times which we seem to have chosen to live within throughout the days and nights of this advent we might call “the Journeying Road of Our Living and Dying”. Working with these practices amongst others and with the understanding that we each need many witnesses to help us make the return leg of the journey may just assist us to find our places in the culture, to create a culture that can withstand the challenges of the day and allows us to bring and offer the gifts that are so dearly needed in any community.

For information about ways you can get involved in this vital work go to:


” Wherever You are is Called ‘Here’, Part 4 of Midlife Dreams “


How many times have you found yourself looking at a map, trying to ascertain where the journey had brought you? “You are here”, may be a helpful orienting clue on the map, yet, where and what are “here”, exactly?

In our dreams and waking life, when we’re paying attention, it may not be all that uncommon that we find ourselves lost.

Just last night I found myself wandering in my own sleep dreams, focused on “getting back” to where I thought I belonged in the dreamworld.

In midlife, or during any time of transit and change, it’s likely that we will experience not just feelings of loss, but also, adrift like any exile, we may find ourselves disoriented and unsure of what direction to take next. We may equally suffer from a profound lack of a true sense of belonging.

What does the metaphor and experience of being lost have to show us? What can we learn “here”? What does being lost presuppose? If one isn’t lost, might we assume that one is “found”? And, what might being found mean?

As we began to explore in a previous entry “I.D. and Registration Please”, there is a real way in which we take on roles, forms of identity and a connected sense of security based on “where we’re from”. Yet where is home, really? Do any of us truly know from whence we came prior to the summons to enter this life and assume a convincingly permanent address in this waking world?

Throughout, at least the first half of our lives, we spend much time finding, caring for and seeking to be sure we can continue to inhabit our abodes. We might easily think that such places are permanent, or desire that it be so. It’s just like it is with our identity – we hope to find certainty and a niche to belong to, a comfortable role, locale or position in life.

As many of us may know, such forms of certainty do not last. They are instead, ever-shifting, as the apparently ceaseless invitations to change and adjust to life’s circumstances encourage us to utter that perennial question, “Who am I, really?”

When we’re not actively asking these crucial questions, they will come unbidden in the night. Being lost may be a fruitful experience, seen from the perspective that, on a human existential level, if we look hard, it’s inevitable that we have to decide for ourselves based on our experiences who we are and where we might be headed. Being lost suggests that one who is amiss is somehow aware of a longing to be elsewhere, or at least, of not feeling “at home”.

Many people describe the, often unwelcome, life review that is inherent in midlife – and at other times – as a realization of having lost one’s way. Being lost in the dreamworld may be an evocation of this, and it may also be the way the soul has of showing us that we are being invited to a much deeper form of orientation, beyond the frail perceptions we create to delude our minds and hearts into thinking we know where and who we are, ultimately.

This issue of being and getting lost, is beautifully taken up by poet David Wagoner in his poem, “Lost”, where he says,

“The trees ahead and the bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are, is called ‘Here’, you must treat it like a powerful stranger, must ask permission to know it and be known. No two trees are the same to Raven, no two branches the same to Wren. If what a bush or a tree does is lost on you, then you are surely lost…”


The poets’ accuracy is a vital aid to us. We might simply feel that we’re lost, in large part because we’ve forgotten to pay attention to the world around and within us. For aren’t we also nature, and like the trees, the birds and other creatures to be found in the dark wood, capable – once we recognize that we appear adrift – of touching into a much more eternal and inherent source and sense of being?

As far as the soul is concerned, may it not then be possible that wherever we are is right where we need to be, and that if we feel lost, we’d do well to study and understand and learn from the true habits and natural forms of being that we also may honor when we can acknowledge that we are being guided by the cosmos, just as any tree or bush, raven or wren is and that perhaps we might find and feel how it’s a matter of realizing there is some greater power able for directing our lives? There’s a mystery to this, in that the same force can be understood to send us our dreams each night as we sleep. Maybe that Dreamsource is seeking to show us that we too may know, sense and perceive exactly how to be ourselves, in some deep yet obvious way, like the trees and the branches of the forest that are so apparently themselves, and that this is a portion of the invitation to being lost as well as the path towards being found.

“Get Lost!”… Guest Blog with Susanne van Doorn, Midlife Dreams Part 3


Susanne van Doorn is a Dutch psychologist and blogger on http://mindfunda.com .  A blog about psychology, spirituality and mythology.  Aimed to make your life easier.


Each month, Mindfunda interviews authors of groundbreaking books at its YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5_vx1eoXghIzKjIlc_-llA so be sure to sign up.
Member of the International Association of the Study of Dreams, presenter at international conferences about dreams and spirituality, she is author of A dreamers guide through the land of the deceased, a book based on her own research that distinguishes different types of dreams one can have while mourning. She translated A theory of dreams from Vasily Kasatkin, the world’ s only longitudinal research into the effects of dreams and health from Russian into English.



“Let’s get lost together. I know where to go”… by Susanne van Doorn

“We must go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us

– Joseph Campbell

My father was struggling for life. His temperature was so high that the juices of life dried up, except for that little tear that rolled down his cheek when he took his last breath.
My mother had not lived alone since she married my father 58 years earlier. One day she told me this dream: “I am walking with your father in the forest. It is just like the old days: we where talking, laughing and I feel so happy. But all of a sudden he chooses a different path, one that is closed off by a gate. I am left behind, feeling lost and incredibly angry. I start yelling, screaming and crying. I am so mad that he just leaves me behind. It drives me crazy that I am not able to go behind this fence in the forest. A fence that was not there before… A woman comes walking towards me, and as she approaches I see that it is his mother. She puts her arms around me and comforts me. Then I wake up…”

 Getting lost is an important part of life. Waking or dreaming, I am used to getting lost. And I am not the only one. Getting lost is one of the most common dream themes. And almost all of us know its meaning: we have to change something. But always when a meaning of a dream is that obvious I get into my Peggy Lee “Is that all there is? Then let’s keep dancing” mood. I have too much respect for dreams. I do not expect them to tell me something obvious. I want them to tell me something else, to inspire me to creativity, or at least have me look at a situation from a different perspective.

When I have one of those “Is that all there is? Then let’s keep dancingdreams I turn to mythology. It was Joseph Campbell who said: “Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required.”

So join me to find the the magic of getting lost. I know where to go.
Getting lost is a vital part in the hero’s journey. It is the onset of a transformation of ordinary people into heros and heroines. Remember how Odysseus spent years trying to find his way home?

King Odysseus gets his call to fight for the battle at Troy. He refuses the call. He wants to be with his wife Penelope and his newborn son Telemachus. He uses a trick to try to escape his destiny, because an oracle once told him if he went into battle, he would be away for twenty years and return a beggar.

King Odysseus became a professional in getting lost. He roamed the world for twenty years. So let’s consider him our ‘getting lost’ expert. Let’s look at my mother’s dream and see where she gets the call and refuses it, like Odysseus did.

I am walking with your father in the forest. It is just like the old days: we where talking, laughing and I feel so happy. But all of a sudden he chooses a different path, one that is closed off by a gate. I am left behind, feeling lost and incredibly angry”.

 Often we are the heroes of our own life without knowing it. The call to adventure can be something you crave for, being stuck in a dead end career, or in a relationship that has lost its glow. My mother gets this call to adventure to take a different path. And she refuses.

Odysseus is one of the few heros that is allowed to go behind the fence. Behind the gates of immortality. My mother is not allowed to do that. She is not allowed to pass through the gate to follow my father on the path he has taken. She knows it. She feels it. This is also a common theme in dreams. In “A dreamers guide through the land of the deceased” a dreamer shares her dream about guiding her grandfather through several windows:

I reach to my grandfather who lies on a bed and all of sudden a big window appears. Behind it are several other windows, all in a straight line. I know my grandfather is supposed to climb through these windows. And even though my grandfather is still afraid, he holds my hand and climbs with me through the first window. We climb several more windows and my grandfather becomes more confident. Then we approach the window that I am not allowed to pass. This feeling that I am not allowed is very, very strong. I tell my grandfather he has to go on his journey alone. He gives me a little pinch in the hand and climbs through. At that moment I wake up
A Dreamers guide through the Land of the deceased p. 26).

Odysseus, being the clever con-artist he is, manages to travel into the realm of death using the blood of a sacrificed animal to feed the death. He needs to be in the realm of death to find his way back home. He has to meet Tiresias, the blind seer. Tiresias was famous for his accurate foresight even though, or maybe because he was blind. He is the only one who can give Odysseus directions home.

If we offer our life energy to a worthy cause like finding our way home we are going to get help. Help from the blind seer, our intuition that often acts like Tiresias. The heart knows. A dream usually tells about that knowledge.

Remember how in my mother’s dream, help came in the form of my father’s mother? A woman comes walking towards me, and as she approaches I see that it is his mother. She puts her arms around me and comforts me. Then I wake up…”

This is her travel into the underworld. Her helper, my fathers’ mother Sophia has been gone for many years. Before he died, my father was convinced Sophia was visiting him. And now she came back to comfort my mother. To guide her on a new path. Like a hero, my mother was reluctant to answer the call to adventure. But she managed to build a new live. She started traveling again, she started to take long walks again, she became more extraverted. She made friends with neighbors and especially with the children next door. They loved to visit her, make her drawings and play while she was watching them.

Getting lost is a common dream theme. It does not mean that your current life is wrong. Or that you have been too ignorant or lazy to make a change. It is a gentle invitation to become the hero in the story of your own life. Let’s go and get lost together. Our dreams will tell us where to go.


In our next advent – Travis will share some ideas and thoughts around being “lost”… “Stay tuned” 😉

“Identification Please”, Dreams and Midlife Part 2


One of many dream situations that occur as part of the territory of the middle passage (aka a “midlife crisis”) involves the loss of one’s wallet, purse or identification cards and papers. This has been a recurrent theme in my own dreams, and I’ve also seen it in many dreams of folks I work with individually, online and in groups. It betokens the perennial question, “Who am I, really?”

In such dreams, the dreamer may find herself in settings where “officials” request and require the display of proper “proof” of personhood in order to pass over the threshold. What might such dreams be indicating in relation to our created and accepted ideas about and experiences of identity? Might these dreams be understood as suggesting a review of where the true source of our “being human” arises from and what truly characterizes human personality at this time n our lives?

I’ll give a composite example of exactly the kind of dream I’m talking about…

In the dream, I’m traveling in a cityscape and I come to a checkpoint. The man who takes tickets and checks ID asks me for mine. I feel through my pockets and bags and realize that I don’t have any of the items he is asking for.

Most of us would perhaps agree that ID cards, passports and so forth are simply tools for identifying people under certain circumstances. However, when these forms and their apparent requirement appear to us in the dream world, they suggest that we may have accepted the generic, societal, across-the-board descriptions about who we are that are given, not made. For isn’t this what has actually taken place throughout the course of a human lifetime? Haven’t we all, by a certain point and on some very real level accepted that to be a person means fulfilling certain roles, expectations and other people’s ideas about who and how we ought to be? Don’t we even describe ourselves, and each other, based on our physical characteristics, our age, where we live and what we do, as well as where we come from? Often, our description of one another could be seen to be a mere elaboration of the information that appears on our driver’s licenses, resumes and passports!


The invitation, or summons of the psyche, especially at midlife and in our dreams is one of a much deeper sense of and creation towards identity based on spiritual and soulful sources of a timeless experience of being that asks us for belonging in the world. This is at least one reason why the dreamer no longer possesses the ID in the dream. It’s been “lost” or “misplaced” or “forgotten”. This is the psyche’s wise way of saying the dreamer is not to be confused with his or her “papers”, the map ought not be mistaken for the territory, and that, perhaps true identity cannot be contained on pieces of paper or cards and that the official requirements for self-definition, as also described by others, will no longer suffice. This is the dream’s language of metaphor and symbol in action suggesting that we develop and unconsciously maintain useful yet ultimately ‘flat’ forms of identity based on what is required of us as participants in society and culture. Yet when we come to the second half of our lives (at least), we are asked to go beyond these built up and cultivated forms, and to reassess our entire notion of where real identity comes from. Our dreams have much to say about this.

In the next installment, we’ll look at how “getting lost” in midlife and the dreamtime is another way of “being found”.

Midlife and Dreaming, Part 1


It turns out that approaching the mid-point in one’s life can be a much more meaningful crossroads than our conventional concepts about “mid-life crisis” tend to reflect.

Being 44 at this time myself, I have to admit that previously, I understood “midlife” to be composed primarily of foolish attempts, made mostly by men, to somehow appear to be more youthful and vibrant than one actually finds oneself to be. In other words, it seemed, until I began my own middle passage of descent and studied ideas surrounding this experience, that midlife moments mostly consisted in exorbitant purchases of fire engine red sports cars or flagrant affairs in which older men sought out the company of much younger women. These things happen, I suppose, yet for the most part I never realized the much more profound questions and experiences that become available to each of us as we age past the first major blooms of our lives. There is much to be gained and understood at this time of one’s life, and this is true for both men and women.

The old Greek tale about Odysseus lost and adventuring at sea following the Trojan war renders many of the themes of what depth poets and psychologists have referred to as “the middle passage”. A beloved warrior and father, this mythic figure finds himself separated from all he knows and holds dear following the abatement of the battle he played a prominent role within. His son and wife await his return at home, yet year after year he remains on his own journey, lost to them as much as to himself.

Of course, there are mythic stories that describe this energy as it occurs for women as well – one could examine the story of Inanna’s descent to the Underworld for example. Silvia Brynton-Pereira wrote a wonderful book called “Descent to the Goddess” about this tale and its meaning, as a matter of fact.

As Joseph Campbell said, myths are like public dreams (and dreams are private myths). On my own quest, and within the  journeys of women and men I’ve had the privilege of sharing a view of the middle places with through my practice, dreams have become great guides along the path.

At midlife we may meet an invitation to ask many questions about ones’ (and others!) existence ‘so far’, and equally to ponder what may possibly lie ahead. For most of us, an urgency having to do with the effects and impact of life takes a central place among the myriad concerns of daily movements and responsibilities. It’s as if some deep force within rises up and says, “Is this really who you think you are and what you came here to do and be?”

Dreams during this time (as well as before and after) , raise images and scenarios that point towards much deeper and more expansive forms of meaning and purpose in our lives than what we’ve grown accustomed to. On the one hand, our nightly adventures may be seen to illustrate how our outer lives have become like shoes that are too small for our feet. On the other, the dreaming energies pose deep queries to our conscious, waking minds and hearts about who and how we are and can be on the vital and interior levels of our souls, as well as in the world.

The wise and often puzzling narratives of experience that come to us while we’re asleep have the ability to inform us of who we are – now – and who we are being asked to become. Often, if not always, on many levels, the dreams are capable of showing us ways that we may seek to continue to learn about and expand upon our previously built-up notions surrounding existence. The dreams pose situations and scenarios that pertain to our place of (supposed, imagined and likely) importance and belonging in the world, as well as the very energies that we require in order to find soul and spirit.

The honesty and accuracy which dreams use and evoke to get to the heart of the matter is not accessible to us in any other fashion; at least not with the creative and deep voice that the dreams lovingly and artfully render in our psyches while we sleep.

Working with dreams at midlife affords us unique windows onto vast panoramas of unexpected and widened possibilities about how we can truly focus on our purpose and offer our unique gifts before our days are done here. In sharing dreams with others, we open ourselves to insights that we may be overlooking while seeking to work with inner material on our own.

Many of the folks I work with find themselves at the crossroads where the first portion of their life intersects with the second half. The dreams reliably offer a wealth of insight as to how to navigate the often stormy waters of the move from the first, into the second half of life. By looking at, seeking to understnad and receiving dreams, we open ourselves to the vast wisdom of our very own deeper natures. In this way we can co-create a profound sense of guidance for and towards traveling the unknown byways of our unfolding days and nights.

For myself, one of the outcomes of working with my dreams at midlife has been to re-devote myself to a previously explored path of vocation and to commit to a lifelong offering of helping myself and others continue to learn how to learn through working with dreams.

(In the next installment on this topic, we’ll briefly explore the reshaping of personal identity as it tends to show up in midlife dreams)

How Dream Sharing Helps, Why We Work with Dreams in Groups


Dreams accurately, expansively show us what we’re missing. They do so while addressing important aspects of being alive: physical and emotional wellbeing, psychological and spiritual wholeness, soul work and much more.

When it comes to any form of transformational work engaged in to support outer goals and healing it’s difficult for us, when alone, to know what will be of greatest benefit. We have a hard time seeing ourselves when working or reflecting on our lives without support. We tend to not be able to see what we don’t already know.

Dreams come to show us what we don’t already know. Sharing our dreams, both as we recall them from sleep and also in deeply held waking visions for our lives, allows us to receive support gained through others views of the dreams themselves. It’s like the old saying, “two pairs of eyes are better than one.”

Sound and musical meditation are compliments to working with dreams that help us open to the universal and diverse aspects of our shared human existence, at the same time.

Discussing and working with dreams and sound in groups using specific tools provides access to wisdom arising out of deep and vital sources in nature and the psyche. The many perspectives offered by members of a group sharing dreams add to the understanding of related life issues for everyone participating in the dream-sharing process.

By using “I statements” to comment on each others dreams, individual responsibility is felt and demonstrated, and mutual connection is fostered. The dreamer is able to hear ideas about the dream without feeling defensive and other participants in the dream circle get to consider the dream as if it were their own. In this way, all members of a dream-sharing circle benefit from the sharing of any dream.

The many gifts of such a practice include:

  • Increasing insight into one’s life and specific issues as depicted in the dreams and applied in dream-sharing
  • Receiving advice from the dreams about how to address problems and co-create wholeness in waking life
  • Gaining respect for self and others through the witnessing of sharing recalled dreams that reveal connections with all of life
  • Feeling mutual support and recognizing shared challenges connected to common and unique experiences in everyday experience
  • Developing independence and interconnectedness by seeing how dreams mirror and augment waking identity and invite us to live larger and deeply relational experiences

Earth Dreaming, the voice of Nature naturing in Dreamtime


The other night, as I sat listening to the March winds wash through a verdant spring-filled ancient volcanic valley, I asked for a dream from the living creatures nearby.

Feeling as if this idea came knocking of its’ own accord on the door of mind and heart, I noted the presence of a few small, young trees, including one delicate and tender seven-foot tall pine tree a few feet off to my left.

A vital intuition occurred to me in that moment to seek to connect with the land and the earth and the wild forces of Nature – in the moment, yet also through a sleep dream. Many dreamers have done this and found that the actual living earth and its inhabitants who aren’t human seem only too willing to respond. The impetus, in my case, has to do with a desire to learn something about the truth of the way we’re all connected and truly need each other and are someways indebted to the earth that cares for us so devotedly.

In contemporary North America today it may be all too easy to feel and think that the main event of Life is the human race. Perhaps with the clearly evident changing climate that we are witnessing, we could consider that it might be otherwise? Our lengthy cultivation of psychological and therapeutic viewpoints seems to have left us with an over-emphasis on the importance and primacy of our so-called individuality. In my work with dreams and dreamers, I see over and again how what occurs in the dreamworld is a call to recognizing that Life and Death and everything in between doesn’t revolve around our selves as triumphant, separately sovereign kings and queens of Creation.

The dream that graciously appeared to me following my curious petition seems to underscore this in an elegant and profound fashion.

In the dream, I’m climbing a “larger-than-life”, tall and enormous dead pine tree. I know it is propped up against another tree and that the two rest against one another somewhere up high in the direction I am climbing. The tree I am embracing and clambering up, which has all its’ branches broken off except for stubs, begins to submerge itself in the earth below. As I look down, I realize that what I had thought was cracked, dry earth is now become cracked and broken large ice floes. Either I will be taken into the ground and swallowed or I can try to hop on to one of the pieces of ice, yet I fear that I will slide off and in to the icy water if I try to do so.

The trees and wild forces that I asked for a dream would appear to have spoken! What might they be trying to tell me, and even us, that goes beyond (but may also include) the mere scope of personal individuality? The dream and its’ occurrence itself shows that it’s possible to relate with the other beings in our world – in this case the plant people and the elements – and that they seem to be wanting to speak to some form of urgency about their own experience of what’s taking place with Nature and the climate at this moment. The trees in the dream, at least, are seemingly imperiled.

The earth is cracked and dry at the beginning of the dream. This feels like an expression of the current drought, which we are suffering here in Northern California. One can hardly escape also noticing that the ice floes recall the plight of the polar bears and the melting of the polar ice caps. The human perspective in the dream is one of fear, danger, “collapse” and equal peril and concern.

Dreams speak in different ways at different times due to a whole long list of influences and realities. This dream, which was invited and arrived as an expression of the voice of the wild and natural non-human creatures that we share the earth with, appears to reveal the possible sensations and perspectives of trees, earth, sky and water. Much could be said about this dream and its’ various levels (as is true of any dream). The point I want to make here though, is that it is possible to receive and invite the living experience of the plants, animals, elements and vital living forces that surround and support and to be given a clear and evocative message of experience by the very creatures that we share the earth with. This dream suggests that there is much more to Life than an isolated list of needs and achievements that relate only to a human-centered form of experience and awareness. In fact, the dream reveals a kind of interdependence, a relatedness, and sounds an alarm about human and plant survival related to observable waking realities in the form of climate change, apparent dying and drought.

Dreaming Thresholds, Dreaming Crosstroads

Artwork by Vladimir Kush http://vladimirkush.com/
Artwork by Vladimir Kush

Just as the seeds of new life deep down in the soiled memories of the earth are being darkly and secretly dreamed anew, so too, our lives are stirring once more as we launch yet again upon the unknown journey of the New Year.

The period of time, which we now call “the Holidays”, once known as and referred to as “the Holy Days” has seemingly passed and many of us will now return to the actions and duties of daily life and work. Some have rested, many have supped, gifted, socialized and still others have withdrawn or retreated. Many have also been dreaming and remembering, day and night, paying attention to the surrendered visions of experience that form behind the eyelids as we sleep and restore ourselves during long winter nights, the darkest nights that are even now once more shortened and brightening, following a full yet perhaps briefly held moment of stark depths.

No less, as we go now, the call to reflect can still be heard upon the silvern wafts of moonlight sailing upon the winter winds in the oceans of sky just outside our doors and on the other side of the windowpanes knowingly navigating through the ethers of night and early mornings.

Symbolically and mythically, naturally and cosmically, this time of seasonality evokes the living energy of the threshold. Threshold gateways appear in dreams as doors, bridges, windows and portals, and more, among other deeply cloaked situations and scenarios that bespell the energy of ‘the crossroads’.

This is the archetypal resonance of a needed rite of passage in the human and the world soul. Ancient and traditional as well as contemporary cultures have marked the turning of the New Year in various ways at specific calendrical moments for ages. What lies behind is, on some level, let go of and finished, when what has passed is no longer vital or needed. What lies ahead is very likley unknown and uncertain. It’s as if the darkness itself mirrors the rich potentiality of that which falls away into the void and the stirring possibilities for what may yet emerge.

Threshold times can be times of great tension, as the craving for some sense of what is and what is to be done grips us in the midst of a great turning towards and through an invitation for emptiness, solitude and renewal.

In the dreams of many individuals, death, dying and darkness appear as echoes of this energy at this and other times. In the metaphoric and symbolic language of dreams, the people we have been, and whom we may have relied upon, are shown to “pass away” in the dreaming, as energetic and actual experiential events showing that the psyche, and the soul of individuals and the collective are in need of transformative and resuscitating movements.

The word “threshold” itself hails from the old farming practice of separating the “chaff” from the “wheat” – the valuable from the less-than-necessary portions of the harvest. To stand upon the threshold is to exist within the quality of this form of separation, and to trust that what has gone before is now falling away, while that which will come is still yet to arrive. On the threshold gateway, it may be felt that the only thing we can know is that we are “betwixt and between”. The need for certainty may be asking to be sacrificed at this time and in this place, that is to say, to be made sacred.

The tendency in modern times may be to rush ahead or back into comforting activities of the daily world, the routine of what is known, the familiar. However, we might pause once more before re-engaging our lives and projects and seek to honor this passage over the threshold of time-bound reality amid the palpable wisp of the eternal passing over the lips of the Old and New Year, to feel into the dream of our lives, the earth, the animals, the elementals and the stars for creating some vital, true spaces for the new dream to be fashioned by the divine forces that act deeply within us and speak to us through the unexpected voices and occurrences in our waking visions and sleep dreams.

As we move into the cadence of life “as we know it” we might renew our awareness around the depths of our soul’s desires by simply seeking to reflect once more upon the energy and meaning of how it feels to make the crossing yet again, from the past year into the renewing times ahead. As we do so, the wise energies in our dreams and our imaginings will be seen and felt to offer surprising and rich forms of guidance and mystery that can and will betoken the winds of change that lie just ahead on the pathways of our individual and shared lives, blessing body, spirit and soul.