“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 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.

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 in the Dark


The darkness and the unknowns that occupy the limitless spaces within have always frightened and thrilled us. On one level, it seems that the story of our modern lives revolves around an effort to banish the darks by bringing more light to every crack and corner. At this time in our existence, there is more light on the face of the darkened earth than ever before. And yet, is life really any better as a result?

Dreams occur in a state of darkness. Sleeping, at night, we close our eyes and turn out the lights, as the sun is temporarily lost to us and the earth revolves, making her journey through the galaxy and around the sun. Even visionary states that occur during daylight hours tend to unveil themselves behind darkened eyelids.

As this time of the yearly cycle finds us dealing with greater and greater amounts of literal and actual darkness in the space that surrounds our daytime wakefulness, we might become increasingly aware of our dreaming selves. Just as nature all around us expresses its cyclical quality of the seasons, we, in our humanness, also experience a rhythmic circling, ripe with fecund obscurations and well-lit vistas of clarity.

The poet Rilke, in his poem “You Darkness”, celebrates the as-yet-unformed possibilities to be found in the absence of light, whose first lines echo out into the inky blackness of space, You darkness, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world, for the fire creates a circle of light for everyone and then no-one who is outside learns of you. What an unexpected and perhaps unpopular view this is! Aren’t we usually accustomed to the opposite celebration, of gladdening ourselves when the darkness has finally been banished by the rising flames of a warm hearth at the center?

And yet, Rilke reminds us of another vitality to be found in the limitless possibility of shadow, as it darkens forth its own boundless and paradoxically central quality in our lives. The poem continues, But the darkness takes in everything, shapes, fires, animals and myself, how easily it gathers them, powers and people. These words, carefully crafted, evoke the way that the dreamtime holds us as we sleep, the way anything can happen in the dreaming, and how it all takes place in the, often, frightening realms of unlimited mysteries.  Here, the dark itself creates a whole new reality containing potentials, where what is not known can be any way it chooses.

In this time of increasing darkness, nearing the Winter Solstice, waking life might even begin to take on the feeling tone and quality of our dreams. Whether we pay attention to our nightly adventures in the dreamtime or not, the energy of interactions and events of our lives might begin to reflect more of a quality of unexpected or surprising forces. Many suffer at this time from heavy emotions and the return of the old, well-worn and saddening dramas of familial life. Others participate in the disturbed dream of consumeristic happiness at being able to gift our selves, and each other with an abundant display of presents, rather than finding a depth of ability to participate together in the immediate experience of presence.  People all over the Western world, at least, seek to light up the night and dispel the shadows that Nature herself is presenting us with as we enter the loamy and still womb of deepest winter. And this year, the Moon is here in North America, creating a wholly lit landscape of reflected solar light amid the darkened night.

While there is something beautiful in all this, the colors and the lights and the efforts to warm our hearts and the hearts of others by shining forth the circle of light, might we not also seek to heed the poets courageous invitation to honor the darks and the wonderfully lit moonscape that finds us here, as well?

Rilke goes on, …and it is possible that a great energy is moving near us, I have faith in nights. Perhaps with a more deliberate celebration of and opening to the dark, in addition to an honoring of the light, we might open ourselves to the blessings of the great unknowns and undetermined quantities and qualities of our lives. When we can allow for a space in which sheer questions exist, it seems we might be able to open more deeply to unseen, dark, previously hidden possibilities of great expansion and the true energies of our lives for drawing more deeply on the wisdom of our dark inner nature itself.

And so it is with dreams and dreaming. For the dreams themselves spring forth surprisingly out of the darkness and involve us in great opportunities that were formerly invisible. We don’t always allow for what’s possible there, as a result of the overly brightened glare of waking consciousness, where the new and unformed possibility could not become manifest, as a result of too much specificity and expectation about the way things should look or be.  It is as though, through the ambiguity of darkness, where anything can happen, creative moments emerge that hold meaning, value and content as a result of the loosening of the limitations of the known physical world.  By willingly entering the darkness, and admitting the dark to enter us, we may give time and space to the unknowns. And, just as sleep can be a replenishment that arises again out of the darkness, by honoring the need for what is not known, we may find surprising outcomes that we didn’t even know existed.

Here is a song from my album, “Yoro Yoro” with Ben Leinbach which is a celebration through sound of the emerging mystery of the darkness.

And here is the full poem from Rilke which you may choose to enjoy as a call to entering the darkness courageously and fully while giving greater spaciousness to dreams and the great unknowns of your own life.

You darkness, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world,

For the fire creates a circle of light for everyone,

And then no-one who is outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything, shapes, fires, animals and myself,

How easily it gathers them, powers and people.

And it is possible a great energy is moving near us,

I have faith in nights.

Online Community Dream Work, “Across Space and Time”

MirrorWolf-2Image Credit – by www.thisiscolossal.com

When I started participating in and leading dream groups, about twenty years ago, the World Wide Web had just barely begun to be a venue for many of the activities it is used for presently. Today it’s possible for dreamers to meet from the comfort of our own homes and to call in over video to do this deeply intimate and fun work together online. There are a number of folks doing dream work in this fashion currently around the world.

Not much of a “techie” over the course of my life, the thought of doing group work with dreams over the Internet did not appeal to me very strongly at first. Having done a hefty amount of various types of group work in a wide variety of venues, I thought that it would be crucial to be in the same physical space, in order to read body language and the like. Thankfully, I was persuaded by a host of friends and colleagues to try it out, and I have to say my mind and heart have been changed on the matter.

The way myself and several of my colleagues work with dreams supposes, on the tested basis of experience, that all we can really do, honestly, is imagine another person’s dream for ourselves – the fairly well-known “if it were my dream” approach credited to both Jeremy Taylor and Montague Ullman.  It turns out that working online appears to support a further invitation to use, involve and honor our living imaginations: yet one more opportunity to also own our unconscious projections.

Online work affords many advantages: we save time, resources and money by not driving someplace physical to meet, there’s a “come as you are” element involved, it’s possible to refer to typed written records and helpful pertinent images while working and folks can even look up further info, via Google, to seek to expand the available connections of meaning while engaging with one another during a meeting. It’s as if, symbolically, we are extending the dream into a whole new arena, while we are awake, as well, dreaming the dream further and more expansively.

The experience of being online itself involves a symbolic attention to the imagination that also includes a sense of paradox; even though we are far away, we are and can be close together, intimate across space and time. On the deeper levels of the dreams themselves, to my awareness, we do seem to be connected at a distance and dream motifs of collective synergy often reveal themselves in clear synchronicities during this work. So, the two experiences are uniquely related and encourage the fostering of a deeper kind of connection, albeit perhaps ironically, at a relative distance which fosters a vital closeness of connection, nonetheless.

Participating in and hosting online dream groups appears to be one way that we may avail ourselves of the current technology, in a quality fashion, to support evermore deepening levels of authenticity and rich inner wisdom to come  more clearly into action in the waking world.

My current online group meeting takes place every other Tuesday from 10am to Noon PST, U.S. and we’re accepting new members. Please go to the groups page here to get more information and contact me to register.

Dreaming On, 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”.

Projective Dreaming: Authentic Path of Discovery


This is the first in an on-going series of thoughts, reflections and the culling of experiences based on the ideas of the phenomenon of psycho-spiritual projection and dreams… Enjoy! TW

In our dreams we are shown, time and time again, how who we really are is so much more than we think we are. We dream of monsters, angels and demons, animals, landscapes and elements, a wide variety of people – even aliens; we find ourselves in sexual situations which would make us blush to even think upon while awake, let alone share with one another. In my eighteen years of working with dreams and paying attention to my own and others journeys in the dreamworld, I’ve clearly been shown that the dreaming informs us about how we seek to project all our own unwanted qualities onto others, somewhere ‘over there’, and that we even do this in our dreams. This includes the skills and talents that we possess and which we’d rather not look at, because to acknowledge such talents and abilities would mean that we’d have to do something about expressing and embodying them and all that entails. This would mean taking credit for our achievements, and our failures, which may be trickier than we first imagine it to be!

It’s been and continues to be my experience that we all project, all the time – as Jeremy Taylor, renowned Projective Dream Worker, Teacher and Author has shown quite well – it’s all about projection,
“… projection is a ubiquitous (existing everywhere) unconscious process much like digesting food or having a wound heal; it is not something that we do on purpose. This process of projection causes us to perceive aspects and energies of our own being as though they existed exclusively outside ourselves and were the ‘property’ and responsibility of others” To begin to recollect the potent energies inside and out, both positive and negative, is to begin to recognize that in dreams and in actual/waking life, we are given multi-layered and super-packed experiential occasions of rich learning and wisdom from which to base our efforts at withdrawing and owning our projections. By working with and looking at the dreams, we start to see how events play out metaphorically, if not also sometimes, literally. Dreaming is a personal and collective, shared vista that is ever-changing and transforming, which fosters and invites a stand-point in relation to the complicated and momentous occasions of a life and our deepest, truest dreams.

In doing Projective-style Group or One to One Dream Work, we agree to practice this original approach to life by discussing our experience of one anothers dreams and by sharing comments in language such as, “If it were my dream, the lost baggage in the airport that I want to recover might be showing me that I have lost track of my own issues and that I would benefit from figuring out where I can address that in waking life”. There’s no reason for the practice to stop when we’re not discussing dreams. The beauty of this approach is that we all get to project meaning onto a given dream or waking experience, and while we do so, we get to witness how we ourselves easily, naturally project, but also, we get to see vital layers of what’s true for us at any given moment while doing the work. The dreamer almost always benefits too, by having the choice to recognize any resonance and universality with the projections that are being shared. What tends to happen, then, is that the dreamers and the group participants start applying the “if it were my dream” idea to waking life and we say things like, “Well, if it were my decision to make, I would want to think about thus and such…”

On a very real level, projections are a useful thing – it turns out that making them is our effort to learn and become more aware. Anything that exists has something to show and teach us. Without an understanding of projection, we wander, lost and unsure of why we experience such intense opinions and emotions. With a modicum of understanding about the phenomenon of projection, we suddenly open ourselves to a vast storehouse of understanding that was not available to us before. Each time a projection is made, it’s an opportunity to bring into conscious memory some fragment of ones own lost or forgotten wholeness, at the very least, which has collective, social benefits as well. Doing so has the effect of encouraging others to do the same, and it also creates the kind of respectful group milieu where people can feel ‘seen’ and are able to seek to be themselves, not who others say we are or should be.