“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” 😉

Dreaming into the New Year, Janus, the Snakes of Yesteryear and the Horses to Come

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Dreamers over time have attributed many characteristics to the dreams that inform us as we sleep, vision and imagine what is possible for our lives and our world. There are as many kinds of dreams as we can “dream up” and more. We speak of “Big Dreams”, “Little Dreams”, “Dreams of a Lifetime”, and “Dreams of Hope”. All sorts of people and cultures over time have recognized that there appears to be an actual yet mysterious source that is responsible for supporting, fashioning and delivering our dreams. Across the planet, diverse folks have identified a wise intelligence that is much more encompassing than we humans mostly experience our selves and our lives to be. Call it the Divine, the Dreaming, God, Goddess, Morpheus, Source, the Friend or by any name that works for you. Despite what we cal it, it is what it is and its diversity seems quite clear.

Aboriginal and ancient cultures, and even some contemporary folk of a certain bent, have also spoken of the dreams of the earth, the ancestors, the animals and the weather spirits. In my own experience, Nature itself does appear to dream and embody spiritual-soul energies, which also possess, maintain and display forms of consciousness.

Amid the shortened days and the lengthened nights, as the Old Year ends, and a New Year begins, we might turn to asking the question of what “The Dream of the New Year” will be for us as individuals, as well as for the collective cultures we find ourselves crafting a life around and within.  As we pause to reflect and look back, what has “The Dream of the Old Year” presented and how have we engaged it, shaped it and informed it through the waking hopes and visions we’ve held, in addition to the sleep dreams we may have paid close attention to as the year unfolded. How has this recent time also shaped us? What dreams have formed the vital hopes and desires that feed the fire in the furnaces of our souls? How close are we to the depth of longing to be found in the visions we hold for our lives? In the many pools of inner reflection in which it is possible to gaze, what are the images of being that come floating back that give us a true sense of how loyal we’ve been to forming the connections between what is known and what has been discovered in our unique quests for meaning, fulfillment and wholeness? And what might this future time be asking of us as we now start to look ahead to the next unknown horizon?

One of the favorable qualities of sleep dreams is the way they surprise us with their unexpected messages and gifts of experience. Perhaps this New Year will also surprise us with unexpected visitations of unanticipated twists and turns of experience, challenge, renewed vision and grace.

Mythically and symbolically, it can be useful to consult astrology to seek to honor the dream of the seasons as they shift. In Chinese Astrology, we are now passing from a year of the Snake into a year of the Horse.

From this view, we are now witnessing the tail end of the serpent energy as it makes its last pass through our lives on its cyclical passage through cosmic and temporal time. Snake is an archetypal energy of a very ancient shade, which embodies mystery as well as instinctual qualities that can be understood to describe layers of raw physical being. Spiritual aspects of snake energy also abound. Serpent is a lowly creature, close to the earth, cold, calculated, shrewd and focused on predatory survival issues. As a reptilian character, snake evokes a reality of physical existence based on a precision of predation and instinct. Snake’s is an energy that travels into the earth to create its home out of fellow creatures burrows. In alchemy and a multitude of mythological traditions, snake reminds us that cycles of birth and death are part of the rounds of life and that the shedding of former skins during times of inner and outer quietude are symbolic of our own deep natures. Snake speaks to the ability to die and rebirth while also evoking a respect for fears, physical strength and the ability to manifest power in order to feed oneself and be fed by the available sources of nourishment to be found in nature.

Transitioning into a horse year, we are invited to shift from the predatory natural tone of snake to that of a prey animal power. Horse is a creature energy that lives upon yet above the earth, and which involves aspects of freedom, independence in relationship to the herd and a wandering wild spirit as well as a slightly elevated essence, contrasted with that of the serpent. Long revered for their wild souls and enormous physical prowess, horses also hold a strong representation of workforce and patience, which demand respect and admiration. Horses sense danger instinctively and won’t put up with behavior or situations that don’t suit their natural inclinations, needs and desires. When attacked or hassled, horses flee with a wildness to the nearest safe and vital haven. These hoofed beasts spend much time feeding on the simple fruits of the field and the reward for their lengthy attention to nourishment is long life, strength and vitality.


In the Roman calendar, the New Year in the West is marked by the turning of the month of December into January. Janus is the double-faced God for which the first month of the year is named. With his two faces, one looking forward and one gazing behind, Janus is the spirit of marking the past and anticipating the future from a present standpoint. This archetypical energy reminds us that we may benefit from momentary glimpses into what has been and what is becoming, so that we might situate our efforts in favorable ways in relationship to what we have learned and what we have yet to encounter.  At least a little dose of Janus energy is always to be found in our dreams, in the sense that dreams embody all times at once. This is what is meant by the Aboriginal Australian word “Dreamtime”, all times happening now, all-at-once. Dreaming, we are invited to review the past, exist in this present and be aware of the potentials of the unfolding future before us.

By seeking to honor the essence of the yearly divinities as embodied in these astrological-mythological energies, we might find a way to work with their tones and vibrancies. To do so, we may ask ourselves, what is our instinctual nature in relation to the character of the animal power or mythic flavor that is now understood to be present. As always is the case, we may also pay close attention to our dreams and reflect upon them alone and with one another to seek to further notice if these energies are showing up in clear ways in our dreaming adventures and to locate ways to act and create on the basis of their messages of import and immediate experience in our lives.

As this time unfolds, may the truest and most favorable dreams of our lives open to us and open us to the deep well of fulfillment within and without! Joyous New Year, Travis Wernet

Dreaming Spirals, Dreams and Dreaming as they relate to the Personal and the Collective

grass-vw-bugDreams are experiences and messages sent to us by Nature. They go beyond the theoretical categories we assign to them in order to understand them. It turns out that our Dreaming Nature is also Nature Dreaming, through us and within us. We’re also, in a sense, akin to ancient ideas about dreams and dreaming, being dreamt up at the same time. Although we may perceive that we are having the dreams, there’s also the possibility that they are having us, that ultimately we are part of an observable matrix of life that goes beyond but includes our individual sense of identities and living dramas.

For almost twenty years I’ve been paying attention to my own and others dreams. It’s been the case for this period, especially when working in groups to explore dreams, that there are always multiple layers of meaning and archetypal, symbolic contents present. It’s crucial to look at the dreams from the perspective that they are reflecting meaning and experience through metaphorical as well as potentially literal language. Even when they don’t seem to be, the harder we look, the more clear it becomes how even the dreams that seem to be presenting literal situations offer potent metaphors of meaning and insight as well.

As an example, consider a recent dream in which my car breaks down and the mechanics come to haul it off to their garage, not an uncommon motif, which I trust many folks are able to relate to.

In my work with this dream I have entertained several possible meanings. Because we moderns are so involved with motor vehicles as a form of transportation, it’s true that any dream of a car is likely to be speaking to the dreamer, and potentially others, about a multitude of important issues.

It’s easy to recognize that a dream automobile could represent a mode of life direction for the dreamer. In the case of a breakdown, perhaps the current trajectory is not working out. The physical quality of being in a car is also symbolically akin to what it’s like to be in a body. It’s also true that cars in dreams often point to health concerns for the dreamer. A broken down car could represent a physical or mental malfunction, or both. The dream might also be a warning about a future breakdown in waking life, of an actual waking world vehicle.

On a collective level, cars and their effects appear to be central to the impact of the environmental conditions of global warming on the planet at this time. So, in the event of my dream car, what might the dream be saying about the universal layer of meaning by posing the breakdown of the auto? I myself, as the dreamer, resonate with the notion of my dream car breakdown as a further implication of the experience around how it feels to be alive at this time. It evokes a sense of what it’s like to hold such a variety of concerns for the ecological welfare of the earth and its’ inhabitants as related to my daily activities such as driving a motorized vehicle and all that this entails.

Perhaps the dream car breakdown also suggests looking for creative alternatives to conventional or common ways of dealing with present-day crises. Maybe it spells out the all-too-human predicament of breakdowns in the true efficacy of our current technology and of mechanical modes for trying to make it through one’s life, as related to collective concerns about the impacts of automobiles characterized here by the dream car no longer able to provide conveyance, or to support movement. By touching on this level of concern, the dream has begun to invite understandings and themes that involve, not just the individual dreamer, not just humanity as a whole, but all of life on earth and the planet itself.

This is a very brief example, which nonetheless may serve to illustrate that even such a simple and common scenario in dreams can be found to be depicting a long list of pertinent meanings which are best represented when applied on as many levels as possible, including the personal and the collective.

Why Our Worst Dreams May Be Our Best


The dreams we have that wake us up are some of the most important experiences of our lives. Just speaking of dreams that come to us while we’re asleep, we spend a minimum of six years of our lives engaged in this mysterious activity. Too often we find ourselves explaining and pushing away “bad dreams”, in large part due to the fact that difficult or disturbing dreams can truly feel awful. Especially when we don’t have the helpful perspectives in our “bag of tricks” to help us understand them.

The English word for dream, which apparently originated between the 12th & 13th centuries, seems to reflect an inability to see the dream as other than an unhelpful visitation by troubling energies. Early roots of the word carry meanings like phantasm or illusion, both akin to the word we all still use to describe our frightening dreams, “nightmare”. This word itself calls up images of wild, out of control steeds, running powerfully and dangerously through the night. It’s no coincidence, then, that at this past time in history, Christian theology had ruled that visions of the night were not to be trusted, and were, in fact, equal to deceptive temptations sent by the Devil himself.

The ancient ancestors of Western and European peoples must have, nonetheless, far before such terms were coined, depended upon dreams as instructive warnings and guiding messages. It’s not hard to imagine people in the days of old seeing dreams of powerful wild animals attacking the village, receiving dream messages about where to find food or prophesying enormous storms threatening the survival of the clans. Even conservative contemporary sleep researchers today tend to agree that one of the main functions of dreams is to provide us with rehearsals and practice for upcoming waking experiences and events. Since a time before the development of a complex spoken or written language, it’s highly likely that men and women have dreamt about the most important energies and circumstances in our lives, as a means of coping with the multiple vicissitudes of earthly existence. In Europe, in particular in France, there are a number of archaic cave paintings depicting the hunt, which suggest such an imaginative activity was also engaged in while awake as a tool for becoming more effective in attempting to secure physical survival. It’s not a far stretch to conclude that these beautiful imagistic endeavors were the basis of a practice of visionary prayer enacted to seek success in acquiring the food and supplies necessary for the basic nourishment of everyday life. Such visions could be said to be parallels of our modern experience of dreams, in which we recall activities such as hunting down that new income stream as well as waking projects involving vision planning and meditations aimed at manifestation.

It seems that the words we use to describe these dreams of ours, which appear to take such a negative tone and dramatic form, may further instruct us about their deeper levels of meaning. What if we could imagine the term “nightmare” as the awesome power to be related with in the challenging visions we see as we sleep, a “night” “mare” the mighty, wild, feminine force embodied as life’s great advneture? The word “awful” can also be turned on its ear, to be understood and perceived differently, as awe-full, a state full of awe. Perhaps there is a thin line between the emotions of terror, passion and excitement, and perhaps we confuse our experience of the two. Equally as possible, perhaps our dreams scare us into paying attention to the very areas of our existence that we need to look at in order to progress and find meaning amidst the often paradoxical and complex situations eventually to be encountered along the byways of a fully lived life.

Take, for example, the story of the well-known rock and roll band Lynyrd Skynyrd who are still renowned today for popular classic tunes like “Sweet Home Alabama”. While preparing to fly to Baton Rouge for a show, Jojo Billinglsley, a backup singer for a band that was traveling with Skynyrd, recalled a nightmare wherein she see saw a plane crashing, in which people died and several more got hurt. Upon waking from the dream, she was so upset that she was screaming uncontrollably and was quite shaken by the memory of the crash in her dream. She decided to tell the band about it, feeling a great deal of concern. The guys took a vote and decided to go ahead and fly to Baton Rouge and change planes afterwards. The flight went down and members of the band were killed, while numerous other passengers were badly hurt. Had the individuals involved in this accident heeded the warning presented by the dream, a great deal of pain and loss might have been avoided. Fair play to Jojo for having faith and confidence in her dream despite the fact that the tragedy was not averted. There are many such tales that could be told, some with happier endings than others, and some more plain and everyday than this one.

To my mind and heart, the takeaway message here is how important it is not to ignore the messages to be found in the dreams, and to do our utmost to follow up on them and by all means, not to sweep them under the rug as we are often wont to do. The above example is fairly dramatic. At the same time, by being willing to receive this dramatic parable, it’s possible that we could begin or continue to allow our worst dreams to offer us their best messages.

In my personal and community dream practice, we follow a time-tested notion that “there is no such thing as a bad dream, only dreams that sometimes take a dramatically negative form in order to grab the dreamer’s attention”, a practical tool for working with dreams offered for over forty years by Jeremy Taylor, Author, well-known Dream Worker and Teacher. I’ve tested this idea, over and over again, in my work with my own and other people’s dreams. Ultimately, this attitude and perspective towards the dreaming allows us to understand that there is a wise inner source, which we can relate with, especially through recalling our visionary experiences. By widening our view to include for terrifying as well as pleasing images, experiences and scenarios, we allow ourselves to open to a vast potential for honoring and seeking to integrate the totality of our human nature, within the larger domain of  a Cosmic Nature, a diverse cornucopia of existence that challenges our very ideas of what we consider to be “good” and “bad”.

Egyptian Dream Travels, Part 4 (the final installment of this theme – for now!)


Following our time in Luxor, the Valley of the Queens and Kings, we boarded our Nile cruise and set off onto my favorite part of the quest. The sites along the Nile and in Southern Egypt have a special quality that, for me at least, has to do with the remote nature of the destinations; they feel less frequented and are a bit wilder and more cloaked in the veil of desert solitude. The time on the Nile begins to engender a very meditative quality with the sensation of big, yet slow movement and the humming of ships engines. One can sit atop the cruise deck with open sky above and watch the shifting borders of the shores on either side of one of the longest rivers in the world. Because the cruise we take goes Southward and the flow of the river is actually to the North, there’s also a strong sense of cosmic time and balance, with the sun rising and setting on both sides, East and West of the ship during the journey. It’s a great pleasure to watch the Moon float through the sky at night and allow ones imagination to wander and play while heading towards Aswan.

It was during this leg of our journey that the young man who was with us started having enormous difficulties. The parallel with the water and the waves in the dream I saw while in New York and being on the river were not lost to me. The situation really came to a head. While we were preparing to go out for a temple excursion, he had a really strong reaction that I can only call a kind of breakdown, or psycho-spiritual crisis. After the episode with the Doctor, it appeared to me that there was an effort on his part to make it look like everything was all right, when it actually wasn’t, which concerned me. I struggled with this, but in a sense there was nothing to be done. At the moment this new emergency came about, I decided that I needed to be clear about my own impressions with the tour leader. Here was a young person who was clearly going through a certain sort of serious meltdown. He was acting a bit paranoid and it seemed that he was worried that we would call in another Doctor. If I were him, I would have been scared too – what a strange feeling to be in a foreign country for the first time and to be reliant on physicians there and on people that one hardly knows. I think part of his stress also stemmed from all the talk of “danger in the Middle East” that gets constantly broadcast on the news, particularly in the wake of the Revolution.

For eleven years I worked in Community Mental Health in San Francisco, so I’ve seen folks in a pretty wide variety of mental, physical and spiritual states that would look highly unusual as well as frightful to a large number of people. This poor guy was really going through something painful and intense, and I suspect it had to do with a variety of factors, including the non-consumption of adequate amounts of water and proper (diet-correct for his condition) food, as well as the effects of withdrawal from marijuana and just plain old homesickness. Nobody else in our group really seemed to know how to relate with this crisis or with the individual undergoing it. Which drives home a few more layers of the meaning of the dreams I’ve shared. The dreams and their experiences prepared me on many levels for dealing with this event in waking life.  The dream of the toxic hotel and relocation, in a metaphoric and actual sense ‘came true’.

Through several conversations and truthful interactions, this young fellow eventually decided, with our encouragement, to catch an early flight back to the States. I deeply enjoyed and appreciated our talks as I felt I could see a side of myself in this person who I had the unique opportunity of feeling close and even helpful to. I do regret that he had a struggle as he did and was worried enough myself at times for his well-being, that I suffered some small amount of stress. No less, we were clearly meant to share this adventure together. This conclusion of the crisis fit my own sense of both dreams as they described several elements alongside the unfurling of the trip on a wide variety of levels. Not the least of which accounted for the interpersonal interactions and my own emotional responses to events. I also feel that the dreams addressed an important aspect of my relationship with this youth that describe the spiritual longing and search that compose the backdrop for the experiences as they played out. The mountain image holds within it the challenges of a quest for spirit – who ever said it was easy to make that ascent to the dance floor where earth and sky conjoin? There are several mythic tales that involve the wildness of mountains amid the initiatory quests of seekers no different than our selves on many key levels. In this way we were offered an opportunity to go through something meaningful together.

Our friend made his return flight and also landed in one piece back in the States, without serious incident (in large part thanks to the Egyptian crew at Guardian Travel). He and I are still in contact to this day. I’m grateful for the time we shared and for our struggle together and on our own during that trip. I don’t feel that he took away at all from my experience – rather, I feel I’ve learned much about what matters to me and also how crucial it is to be able to share in the lives of Youth. My young friend taught me many important lessons about the helpfulness and mystery of dreams as well as the usefulness of their application to extra-ordinary everyday encounters under unusual yet familiar circumstances.

There are a few loose ends in all of this, but as I said before – in Egypt, one solution leads to at least one more mystery, and isn’t that how the Song of Life tends to play out, after all is said and done? Besides, the Old Ones say that that’s what the end is all bout – without some loose ends, how could it all begin again and who would care enough to pick them up to start telling another lively story?

*Look for future blog entries exploring other aspects of my three years experience traveling to Egypt to do dreamwork and ceremony alone and with others in that marvelous and beguiling ancient place…
All Blessings, Travis Wernet


Egyptian Dream Travels Part 2

As the 2012 trip unfolded, I kept coming back to this first dream of the journey, checking the experience against current events in waking life, sitting with the energy of it – the metaphors and memories of the dream narrative. One of the things I love about being in Egypt is waking up quite early, sitting and having my coffee in the Arabic-style cafes and allowing the dream world to ferry its voice over through the thin fabric between worlds. The first week of the trip I’ve done three times over now is usually spent adjusting and adventuring around Cairo. It’s also a time for getting to know one’s fellow travelers.

Folks from all around the world still travel to Egypt to explore the amazingly in tact architectural and cultural marvels of a high past spiritual civilization, which hints at vast wealth on much more than simply a material level. The people I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and do ceremony with have come from as far away as China and from several places across the U.S. and Canada. This time, my roommate happened to be a young man in his early 20’s from my home state, Colorado. We made a quick connection on a variety of levels, including a deep interest in mystical traditions and practices.  As the days unfolded, it appeared that the trip was more than a bit overwhelming for him and despite clear requests for the group to stay together and to be attentive to one’s surroundings, my new friend began to trail off at odd and inconvenient moments. He also got himself into engagements with locals that left him bewildered and confused, despite our attempts to suggest he do otherwise.

The other folks on the trip made every effort to support this youth and certain of our group expressed paternal levels of care and concern, myself included. The leader of the trip, a woman who has been taking groups to Egypt for over 10 years, and myself, as the experienced hands on deck, noted that our young compatriot seemed to need a little extra support and prompting to remain focused. We both began to wonder if something else might have been going on. My approach differed from the woman leading the journey, in that her feeling was to leave him to his own devices and to hope that he would ‘get it’. She even remarked to me that she didn’t want my enjoyment to be weighed down or affected by any sense of needing to look after this young man. Yet, I felt happy to relate with him and sought to offer some helpful direction and support.

Intuition is my strength. It’s the way I’ve navigated through the world and led my life for forty-one years. When my hunches start to ‘tingle’, I have learned to pay attention – of course, I do sometimes miss the boat as well. As the soup of our journey together thickened and our outings became ever more stimulating, I was reminded of the dream. But I also had an increasing sense of something not adding up, yet also adding up in a direction that smelled as if a surprise of some sort was on the wind. The other travelers approached me more than once, worriedly asking about my roommate. In our down time, he and I had conversations that began to paint a picture of more than a little concern. I learned that he had been using medical marijuana back in the States, but had suddenly quit just prior to our journey due to the obvious dangers of trying to take this across foreign and domestic borders. He was asking me if I thought it might be safe to buy some here and smoke to cut down on the feelings of craving he had begun to have and which seemed to be getting quite acute. That didn’t seem like a great idea to me. One of the other folks – a woman who came on the trip by herself had also begun to cause some concerns, in the sense that she also was deciding, at times, to carry out her own agenda and return to the group on her own schedule which was truly in conflict with our initial agreements and a real pain in the neck. When traveling together in an unfamiliar land, certain consensual arrangements support the ability of every individual to enjoy the various delights on offer. Well into the first week, things were starting to feel more than a bit tense with these two individuals acting out varying degrees of ‘drift’ away from the overall cohesion of our little band of travelers.

I continued to review my “Swimming Beach Below the Mountain of the Ancestors” dream. In this exploration, I began to notice a connection between the ocean waves speaking to the sense and reality of feeling knocked over by forces stronger than my self in certain ways. As Rilke has said, “This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings”. In my own personal mythology at least, when waves appear in the dream, coming with a force upon the beach, as they do while I am swimming in the ocean in this one, some unexpected and potentially overpowering event is likely to reveal itself in the near future. At the same time, I began recognizing that the leader of the trip could be seen and experienced as my ‘boss’ – the one ultimately in charge and to whom, like it or not, I felt I had to give sway to. My dream seemed to be showing me that there would be a kind of conflict ‘at the back of things’ (just like the sore on my old boss’s back) and that aspects of the trip had quickly taken on a ‘pain in the butt’ flavor. I also saw that this new arrangement in waking life Egypt resembled important aspects of my former waking work relationship with the boss in my dream. The feeling of needing to go for nourishment (the food invite from friends) described the tension over confronting the ‘sore’, trying to get ‘to the bottom of things’ and dealing with the ‘annoying boss’ versus going for a relaxing and delicious meal.  It also matched the feeling over certain dinners, which we often share while on this trip, where everyone comes together and imbibes food and conversation after some private time at the Hotels and a days worth of adventures. Such occasions on this journey became increasingly tense at times due to the dynamic of the group and folks within it.

End of Part 2 – More dream exploration and travel tid-bits to follow!

Egyptian Dream Travels, Part 1

For the last three years, I’ve traveled to Egypt as a ceremonial guide, sound healer and dream worker. My role in this has been to offer music, poetics and support for groups of individuals taking a soul-journey to an ancient land of rich, surviving spiritual wonder. Over the course of my sojourns, I have been mindful of paying attention to my dreams and learned much about the ancient world. Through this course of trips, I have also found inspiration at home and abroad to learn as much as possible about the various connections between music and dreams – both in ancient and contemporary times. Various threads of curiosity have tickled my attention as they’ve woven across the loom of my adventures. I find them still, composing a wild and unfinished garment of experiences I have been about discovering on my travels in this fertile, surprising land.

In 2012, I had a bevy of dreaming and waking serendipities, which I feel  illuminate the way that creative and attentive work with dreams benefits both the dreamer and his/her community on many multiple layers of meaning and experience. While on a short layover in Jamaica New York on my way to Egypt this time around, I had the following dream:

“Beach Swim below the Mountain of the Ancestors”

“I find myself at the beach, with others, including my waking life partner. We’re playing in the waves, and I sense this is a place somewhat like Hawai’i and/or Mexico – somehow a combination of both. We’ve been to the nearby mountain. This high peak reminds me of a place I often visit in dreams and which I connect, on one important level, with the energy of the Ancestors. It rises up into the sky just above a wave-lapped wall up from the surf where we are swimming in the ocean. It’s time to go for a bite to eat. As I have this thought/realization in the dream, my former boss from many years ago (also a good friend in waking life to this day) shows up along with one of my former work-mates – they are both women. Their names, I discover later, mean ‘the forest’, and ‘of noble birth’. I see the mountain up beyond the beach where these two individuals have suddenly appeared. There is a ring of cloud around the top, a ways below the summit. It seems like bad timing, as the woman who was my boss has a sore on her lower back and is asking me to help her with this, or is complaining about it to me. She’s uncharacteristically ‘trashy’ and seems ‘needy’. My attention is distracted away from my friends, by her unexpected presence along with the other woman. At this moment, I get taken under by a big wave, eventually come up and look at the whole scene as before. The beach, the wall and the mountain behind the other figures are stil there; my friends are irritated with me for dilly-dallying and paying attention to this woman, rather than going with them to get some food.”  End of Dream

At the time of this recollection, I paid special attention to record it in my journal, ponder it and turn it over in my mind and heart. I had very little idea of what to make of the experience (something we’re all prone to, when working dreams alone, due to a phenomenon known as ‘unique blindness’ which says that it’s often difficult for us to ‘get’ the meanings and messages spun through our own dreams, because it’s hard for us to see ourselves – as if we’re looking from within and seeking a clear view from without). No less, I spent time with this dream reality and came back to it as my Egyptian advent unfolded. This begins to describe the way that ‘Dream Catchers’ – folks who work and play with our own and others dreams – seek to make a healthy habit of tending a nest for the strange and wonderful, sometimes confusing productions of the psyche. With dreams, it’s as if one has been given the charge to look after a burgeoning garden. Even after the starters have been planted in the soil, much care and attention is needed for the growth of a healthy and diverse harvest. The vital living forces of the dream garden are to be watched, felt, watered, fertilized and nourished along the way to any crop that might be taken in when what is grown and greened becomes ‘ripe’. Over the years I’ve learned not to put away images and events that enliven my nights during sleep just because I don’t at first understand their meaning or import to my life. As Carl Jung has said, the more we turn such energies around in our waking awareness, “something almost always comes of it”.

The story of my 2012 Egypt trip continues in Part 2, “coming soon” All Blessings, 13 Thank Yous! Travis W

So Why Work with Dreams?


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