A Personal and Cultural Community Quest
Persephone’s Shadow, Gifts from the Underworld:
Living, Sleeping and Dreaming in times of Endarkenment
As a variety of storms brew and land across the world, here in the Northern Hemisphere the energies follow their ancient path down into the depths of ‘terra firma’. Any number of ‘real-life’ dramas play themselves out across the daily and nightly screens of existence. In the U.S. we’re up for the next Presidential Election and folks in several places (if not everywhere) struggle with the daily routines and challenges of our human, practical bound duties and enigmas. Winter is in the wings, but the weather is unusual and strange in several locales and along with the economic crunch of the past few years, it’s clear that there’s a lot on the collective plate for us all to be considering and responding to, especially, but not exclusively on the East Coast in the wake of Sandy.
Given all this, how might we take care of ourselves and find a healing center within during this time of rife polarizations and the fraying at the edges of culture and community and massive challenges to our relationship with nature ? As one of my favorite archetypalist authors James Hollis puts it,
“It is insufficient to understand our time in merely political or economic terms. To understand what it means to be human obliges a growing awareness of the deepest designs of the soul.”
The warp and weave of such threads are to be found, surely, if not elsewhere, in our dreams. The soul is said to be the playground and the workshop of dreaming, as well as a great source of solace, purpose and mystery.
A woman in one of my on-going dream group gatherings recently shared a story about the way dreams can have a very practical, guiding and helping quality to them. She described her present difficulties with finances at one of the meetings, during which several heads nodded in understanding about the current air of our own challenges around material survival. In her quest to keep a roof over her head, she relayed how she didn’t know how her current months rent would be covered. Amid a morning of the stress and anxiety accompanying such obstacles, she searched for solutions and was not getting very far. The way she describes it, she stepped back for a moment, slowed down and decided to ask for help from her sources of spiritual guidance. At this moment, a previously unrecalled dream fragment (a short and seemingly ‘insignificant’ remembered portion of a sleep dream) popped into mind. In the dream, she sees herself finding a man’s wallet and opens it, where she then finds $100 that she ‘forgot she had’. Upon recovery of the dream, it suddenly occurred to her to reach out to her father and ask for much needed and formerly unprovided monetary assistance. She called him up and much to her surprise he said that he’d be happy to help out. Despite the dreamers past experience of her father as unresponsive to such requests, and in the face of fears of being told “No”, the dreamer found a temporary solution to her pressing financial problem.
Dreams have the potential to move us in exactly these unexpected ways and many more. From my view, this dreamer honored her own sense of deep inner guidance as a result of her long-held practice studying, trusting and working with her dreams in community and on her own. In the groups over the last 3 months, we’ve been highlighting this aspect of the dreams to address and point the way towards practical, everyday guidance and wisdom. I love this example for several reasons – it shows me (once again) that, among other things, there is a strong link between dreams as creative prompters and a persons overall health and wholeness. In a moment when all else failed, the dreamer turned to her soul to ask for guidance and was met by the exact symbolic and metaphorical experience needed to inspire her to reach out in a way that stretched her own limits as well as those she described belonging to her father. In this instance, it can be seen how dreams may meet our needs on a variety of levels at once. It might seem that this example is stuck in the economic layer, which Hollis has said is more on the surface where concerns of soul are immanent. In actuality, this story shows how soul has been made while also addressing the energy and concern of physical well-being. Through a personal economic crisis, the dreamer and her father have connected in a whole new way and an experience of emotional-psychological risk has expanded the possible horizons of two family members amid the intentional honoring of a dream memory as well as a waking life need. These types of interactions also send out ripples and effect/affect the other people in our lives.
Good work with dreams ought to support this experience. Working in groups (or one to one) from a “Projective-style Approach” with the understanding that as we share our dreams and others listen, all we can do is imagine the dreamers own experience of his or her dream leads to a long list of exciting and previously unaccounted for imaginative alternatives for responding to the tasks of ordinary life. It also turns out to be self-empowering (for everyone!) as a result.
The helpful tone of the groups and individual sessions as I seek to present them, is in large part forged from the further understanding that only the dreamer knows what meaning the dreams might hold – even though we all have our own “A-Ha’s!” of insight around the dreams being shared. In the particular example of the ‘forgotten $100 in the mans wallet’, the deeper layers of meaning for me are around ‘value’ and ‘worth’ in general, and my version of the dream as well as the wonderful day-world parallel of how this little fragment inspired creative action and support show the way dreams speak on multiple levels of meaning and come in the service of health and wholeness. By taking a chance, the dreamer has honored the dream, and in my imagined version of her described experience, at the very least, the potential for increased feelings of self and other-worth have both expanded. In essence, the message I get is that ‘its worth asking for help, I’m worth being supported, and can honor these elemental truths by asking for what I need and want’. If I can imagine being the dreamers father, I also feel ‘worthy’ as my daughter has valued me enough to ask for help and I have chosen to recognize that I am willing to do so, which has the effect of showing me my own self-worth in a whole different way than I had conceived of it before.
This is just one of several examples I could offer, and yet it stands out as a timely highlight of the various ways dreams and paying attention to them can be of immediate, deep, practical, emotional and psycho-spiritual service to dreamers and those who are close to them.
In up-coming blogs I will be sharing more examples about practical help from dreams and discussing my own dreams and experiences in Egypt over the last few years and we’ll be furthering the discussion around many-layered dream assistance and exploration from a projective dreamwork perspective.
Dream On! All Blessings, Travis W