Tag Archives: Dream Temple

Everything Dreams

Don’t Scare Those Images Away!

 

The Dreamer Owns Her Dream: Or, Why Dream Images are Intrinsically Resistant to Psychology . . .

It is a fundamental feature of most contemporary groups that the dreamer owns her experience of the dream. We may have ideas, we may think we see things, and at the same time we are, like the dreamer, only witnesses of a process. And as witnesses, we are removed one step further. The Dreamer is the original observer or participant in the dream; privy to al the senses engaged in the dream: The sounds, the tactile sensations, the smells – even the felt sense of the dream. Sometimes the running narrative of the dream – itself removed a step from the experience – is merely a play-by-play of the visual cues in the dream. 

Often, very specific or leading questions of the dreamer sometimes take away from the experience of the dream aTibetan Lanscape in Santa Fe NMnd may reveal more of a fantasy on behalf of the listener(s) than an accurate “interpretation” or psychologizing of the dream by the listeners. Dream Images hate that! We can scare them off with our own biases or with stupid questions! It is as though you are with a friend who says, “The Lost Puppy in your dream? That is so you. Just think about it, you’ve been looking for yourself in everything lately!”  You might reply, “I’m not sure that feels right,” to which your friend might say, “Of course it’s you. That’s the problem, you’re so close to it you can’t see it.” A different response might be, “Does the Lost Puppy seem familiar to you?” You might answer, “You know, it does look like a dog I had when I was 14” or maybe “Funny as it sounds, it looks like the new guy at work!” These are two completely different conversations; the one in which the listener imposes meaning and the one in which the listener supports the curiosity and the point-of-view of the speaker.When we ask open ended questions, things open up. And when things open up that resonate with the dreamer, many other positive things can happen that disappear when our questions become narrow, diagnostic, or conspiratorial!

"A Dream Loves to be Met in the Way of Dream!"
“A Dream Loves to be Met in the Way of Dream!”

So it is with dreams; as Steve Aizenstat often observes, “A dream loves to be met in the way of dream”  (bookmark above carefully stitched by Kathryn Lea for her father’s birthday!) Occasionally in a dream group I will hear from someone a feeding frenzy of staccato point-blank questions, fired off with machine like precision: “Was the man in the corner like your that guy who stalked you at the street fair yesterday?” or “Why were you in that forest to start with?” or “Did the hallway seem like it was concrete blocks?” I can tell from questions like these the listener has some specific notion about the dream that may be very far removed from the dreamer’s experience of the dream. Let us remember a few points about the experience of the dream and its retelling that set it apart from staccato questions of dream-killing specificity! 

  • Dreams have a “felt sense” that rejects interpretations that miss the mark; most often when people offer suggestions, those on target will evoke a ‘hit’ inside the dreamer as a point of connection;
  • Dreams have their own ready-to-hand knowledge; and by that I mean you can instantly have an understanding of years’ worth of information contrary to waking experience, (like that 18 months you spent as a CIA operative in Lisbon undercover with an Italian supermodel . . . And a dog named ‘Strega…’ ) 
  • This special body of knowledge, unique to the Dreamtime, may be one-off events of nearly infinite detail or may be a rhizome-like web from dream to dream, like a house or structure to which you return on successive nights, or a special power like flight, invisibility, or levitation that occurs in more than one dream, or a repetitive them like always being in airports but never actually getting on a plane in dream after dream. This inner architecture builds on itself, and a single dream auditor can never know all the dreamer has knowledge of in this way
  • As “the body is always dreaming”, there is often carriage of affect in the body in the retelling of the dream; dreams are not merely an event occurring on a small stage in the brain, but engage the breath, the sweat glands, and the polyvagal network of afferent and efferent nerve signals and the chemical reactions and messages that occur throughout the body. Gesture in the retelling becomes important, as this is how the body may tell the story of which the mind or memory is not fully aware. Therefore it is not always just the words, but the embodiment of the dream that presents in the retelling. 
  • Everything Dreams
    Everything Dreams! Dreams Are Happening Now! [DreamTending Coffee Cups honor the work and the dream practice of Dr. Steve Aizenstat, Chancellor of Pacifica Graduate Institute]

Also, I have noticed there are times during which a group that knows the dreamer well sees something in the dream that the dreamer cannot see. I believe this to be different (and surprisingly rarer) than the case in which a group fantasy of perceived meaning runs wild. In the case of this blind spot on behalf of the dreamer, many things can happen. The dreamer may have the option to consider the feedback and to reject it, in which case the wise and patient group will not press any points. Also, the group may meet the dreamer in the dreamer’s own perceptions and curiosity; and when that happens the dreamer almost always arrives at a moving and insightful point, whether or not it encompasses all of the content perceived or imagined by the group. Clearly, nothing is gained by pressing a point, even if accurate, that is outside of the Dreamer’s awareness or ability to integrate. In these cases, as in most every other circumstance I can imagine, the most helpful tack is to let the image be the teacher. Images are dynamic: the information they carry lives and changes with the dreamer’s capacity to recognize or internalize different lessons or tasks. Images are autonomous; they do not require us to decode them, to psychologize them, or to toggle between manifest meaning and some latent, St. Colmans Cathedral in Cobh, 2“real” meaning. In other words, we do not have the right to superimpose our understanding onto an image which is inherently wiser that are we. That is just as much a form of colonialism as bringing our band of religion to “save” a people while robbing them of their rain forests, their natural resources, or their way of life. We think we are so smart . . . until we bump up against a stronger, a wiser, or a more patient force.

Medicinal Meditation: A Healing "Hair of the Dog" that bit me with some of the things proven to work on my behalf.

Big Dreams

Those of us who regularly journal dreams are often in search of the Big Dream, that overarching spiritual glow we get while basking in the presence of the divine that makes Jacob’s Ladder look like a cat nap whimsey.

Russell Lockhart says of the Big Dream:

The reason why interpretation fails big dreams is that interpretation tends toward understanding  . . . only in terms of what already is known, while the bog dream is speaking . . . in terms that are not fully known . . .

Too often perhaps we have those dreams of great mystery and awakening. Perhaps we admire them for a day or two as the glow follows us into waking life. Perhaps we sit on the side of the bed watching it run past again in our waking presence, say “oh!,” only to metaphorically roll back over and fall asleep. The challenge of this post is to seek out the Big Dream, and when it visits, find a way to keep the light alive and burning in your soul!

I mentioned Jacob’s Ladder at the beginning, and that dream which has had such a huge impact on the last three thousand years of history, geography, religion, and politics should not be treated as lightly as I did above. It certain qualifies as a Big Dream among big dreams.

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

William Blake ~ Jacob's Ladder
William Blake ~ Jacob’s Ladder

Hence, the origin of the promise behind the promised land. Pretty big dream, huh? For most of us, we may never have a dream so large that it alters the lives of say, several billion affected people, as did the dream of the Patriarch. So how do we distinguish between the big dream, the wishful thinking dream, and some garbage-in-garbage-out “day residue” from the day before?

Deborah DeNicola helpfully gives a clear and succinct answer: “Numinous dreams are any dreams that leave you in wonder and move you emotionally into awe, as if you’ve been graced with a transcendent presence.”

For those of you looking for a brief and well researched post, this is a good stopping place. For those who are willing to attend deeply to an experience, stay with me!

A recent dream, worked first with my Dreamtending partner, and later with a mentor, has led to a feeling of the transcendent presence in each of several figures, all of whom seem larger than life. First, the dream fragment from the middle of a much longer and equally substantial dream:

There is an evil man, later he is a Billy Goat, that is a bad character that is threatening a small Latino boy of 6 or 8 and his mother alternating. Each time he would seem to get the upper hand a force would intervene. I have the awareness this is a series and therefore none of the main characters will be killed. At one point the man/goat dreams the boy onto a rock and the boy may be about to be killed or smashed and a bear attacks the goat and sends him off. The boy throws small rocks at the goat that can do nothing but the goat is fleeing the bear more than anyone and the woman in league with him and the boy, I am thinking, can regain some esteem by thinking he is a part of driving off this goat.

The goat is forced to a cave where “Billy Goat Gruff” is coming to work and is now unfortunately for him having to choose between returning the face the bear or taking his chance with the toughest of his kind. He engages with the even more aggressive Goat; this Tough, Old Goat as they go farther into the cave and as I follow and watch. . . .

There is more before and after, but I awaken thinking about the toughest Goat, as well as the bully billy goat, hereafter the “Young, Wounded Goat” that has to meet him. This picture of that scene emerged:

"The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly" dream; detail
“The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly” dream; detail

Each of these figures has become larger than life. From this one dream has sprung a conversation with other dreams; imagery and dialogue with each of the five dominant figures, and a felt presence throughout the day of one or more of the figures. I’ll start with the Boy.

“Paco,” not meant in a pejorative fashion here, is a boy who shows up in at least four dreams in the month in which this dream visited. In one he is throwing rocks off a bridge on the way to a town while a woman approaches him from across the water. In another, he is in a hole in the ground, protected by the same bear who presents. Paco is protective of his mother, and intensely a fierce competitor – survivor qualities in a boy who sees family as important. My concern  for his self esteem is a key to the take-away for me as the one who views and participates in this dream.  This is the time to acknowledge the consistent work of Jill, my dream partner, with this image of this boy and the connection to other dreams and images I have shared with her over these months and years. Jill brings her own life experience, her shamanic ways of knowing, and an incredibly patient presence in allowing me to deepen into meaning or into pain, however it unfolds.

Bear:      Bear 2

Bear has long been a family totem. Bears, as Jill has helped me see, are the repressed feminine in my family in the form of play and mirth and love that they were allowed to bring forward. Bear is Protector in this dream and in the other referenced above which happened about a week later. This bear reminds me of the bear in a dream of friend Tammy, whose Bear in a dream she shared with a group of us a year ago seems to be “the one who notices” and calls attention to important action in the dream. My Bear is not the same as her Bear, but the two know each other. Bears happen to be present throughout my office, and each one I see is a reminder to be present and to notice . . .

Thoreau Bearing Notice

Young, wounded goat: The “numinous” or openly spiritual aspect of this dream is that from the outset I knew there is something of my destiny that is inextricably tied up with the destiny of this wounded goat. The watercolor I made shortly after the dream captured the bright, fresh, and dangerous nature of this wound. To make peace, I had to deepen my understanding of this goat’s wounds – and my own.

Greater Detail: Young, Wounded Goat
Greater Detail: Young, Wounded Goat

Tough, Old Goat: The tough old goat, as he announced in my meeting with my mentor, is not impressed by the appearance or presentation of the young wonded goat. “He has seen 4,000 young goats come and go. Not every young goat gets to be an old goat, but every old goat was a young goat once.” There is wisdom in this figure that reminds me at once of my original AA sponsor who died over 26 years ago, and whom I think of every day. \

The “Mother” figure has not yet been touched in this discussion with the fullness her presence and her vulnerability represent. For length, and out of respect for some of the work I am doing with this fugure now, I will only say shortly that this dream exists for her as much as or more than it does for the young boy.

Tough Old Goat 1The combinations of this “Big Dream” include the relationship of goats young and old, the protection of Bear toward Boy, and the underlying relationship between this boy and his mother.  Therein lies both some of the original wound; the closeness of child and mother that was affected at some level by the alcoholism in and around both; their alchemical interaction which ranged from the comforting and loving to the conflictual and competitive. And the overcoming of that – ultimately the making of peace with the long buried past – that is some of the magic and the essence of this dream.

Forgiveness and mentorship, healing and repair work together in the formulation of a daily medicine from the parts suggested by the dream: The four components of the medicine are a bit of the old wound (abandonment), an equal part of the energy from the affliction (addiction), the quality of wisdom and experience (sponsor/old goat) and the essence of mountain, the gift of the earth suggested in this dream.  These four parts I mindfully mix each day now, and journal the experience.

Medicinal Meditation: A Healing "Hair of the Dog" that bit me with some of the things proven to work on my behalf.
Medicinal Meditation: A Healing “Hair of the Dog” that bit me with some of the things proven to work on my behalf.

This draft has now been revised several times since the first draft on February 26th, more than five months ago. It was waiting on this dream that visited about six weeks ago.  I want to get back to Russell Lockhart’s quotation: that interpretation fails big dreams because big dreams point to the unknown. I have worked this dream privately for hours, openly with a trusted friend for  a couple of sessions, and transparently with a mentor in front of nearly three dozen people. It still has not revealed all of the secrets of the cave nor of the inner relationships of the figures. This is not a big dream because it carries Jehovah or  Govinda or Athena or Mohammad, but because Bear notices and because goat feels. This is a big dream not because it will change the course of life for a billion people, like Jacob’s Ladder, nor even in the twenty or more who may read this post. This is a big dream because it may more fully illuminate some dark corners in the life of one. And I feel almost unspeakably grateful for the visitation by this dream and each of the figures. I can only repay that gratitude by continuing to deepen the conversations between myself and them, or witness (bear) the conversations between the figures themselves.

Past, present, and future of the clan

150 Years of Family Dynamics and a Small Dream . . .

There are times when working with Dream opens up a story. That story may be a new story – such as the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dream that Robert Louis Stevenson had once. Or it may be a common story, like the having-to-take-a-high-school-exam-dream that soooooooo does not make sense in a person so far removed from the last Homecoming Dance. But what about encountering a story in dream that is so old, you just know it is older than you are? Like those “trickster” dreams in which something shape-shifts into something else, and you just have a feeling this dream is not about the dreamer.

In December 2007 I had what I thought was a pretty average dream about me. A couple of months later, working that dream in depth with a mentor, I felt the entire Greek Pantheon in a struggle about

ZeusPedimentOlympiame. The dream was not about me at all, only my perception of the dram was really about me. The gods of Olympus were duking it out – again.  I won’t relay the whole dream, as that would make the length of this post unbearable. But enough to give you the idea.

I am in a living room of the house I live in. I am thinking I should paint this room – [edited for length]. There is an oil portrait of an ancestor in this room.  It is actually more like a pharaoh, and I am at some point in the dream thinking when he wakes up, he will wreak havoc and do harm if I don’t have something for him to eat and drink. I wonder if I can fend him off for a while with that bottle of port I have in the dining room.
In a room there are some relics in bookcases or display cases that have value, handed down from the family, including things on top like a 19th century “perpetual motion machine” – those things concerned with keeping some constant motion – they are really like toys.  One of them has a series of 8 cups and 8 ball bearings, it takes at least two of the bearings to operate the contraption, and as I am looking at it the last two ball bearings that fit into a cup to maintain motion fall out and quit.  I am thinking I needPharoah Clock to fix this, feeling really worried that the pharaoh will attack if I do not.  As I start to fix it, an older man like my father in law tells me, ‘Here is what I would do. It’s now December. I would tell the guy that runs this he has until February.”

The dream continues a seemingly interminable length. The next scene is about my son and his debate partner; then a scene where I am robbed and humiliated by two men. At the end of the dream I have to track these men down to regain my manhood – for my son more so than for me.

The chain of associations in this dream with a mentor were very long. Part of that is that the images seemed so very, very old, much older even than the 150 years of family history represented. The sadness of two centuries of men who had lost sons, boys who had lost brothers, families with an empty spot, informed me in my body of the weight and responsibility I carry just in being alive. I can see it in the firmly set mouths of many of my forbears, each living with a kind of 19th century ancestral pain:

Clockwise from upper left; Randal McGavock (1826-1863; Philip Lindsley (center, 1786-1855); William Cocke, (1768-1848), Jacob McGavock, Felix Grundy (1777-1840.)
Clockwise from upper left;                                                                                                                                 Randal McGavock (1826-1863); Philip Lindsley (center, 1786-1855); William Cocke, (1768-1848), Jacob McGavock (1790-1878), Felix Grundy (1777-1840.)

When my father was 6 years old, his 24 year old brother was killed in a car wreck. Their father, my grandfather, has lost his 22 year old brother when he was 24 due to pneumonia. Their father, my great grandfather, lost his 17 year old brother when he was 19 “whilst a student at Bethany College” in 1864. Their father had also lost siblings, on back. Part of the story was multigenerational grief and loss; what was the other part?

The unspoken part of this family curse was that between my brother and me, without knowing all the family history of centuries back, I had the nagging sense that one of us didn’t belong. As my brother was perfect (Phi Beta Kappa at Vanderbilt; established in my father’s business) – I must have been the expendable one. I survived peritonitic and appendicitis at 11 months of age, against odds, as the family story holds. I always got the message “I am lucky to be here, and perhaps not really necessary in the equation.” The dream references the anger of the gods when they realize that, maybe like some Harry Potter, I was “The Boy Who Lived” when he shouldn’t have. Addiction and addiction recovery, and working through that sense of superfluous existence, is at the heart of the dream. As old a story as the survivors of generation upon generation.

The story unfolded even more deeply. My first wife’s father died at age 39. Her grandfather at 49, and on back in time for four generations at least no Millard father lived to see the age of fifty, going back to her great grandfather who died as Lieutenant Governor in California. Amazing how those two pieces fit together, isn’t it? And bearing down on age 40, perhaps the strain of my own mortality, my family complex and hers, may have contributed to an unconscious flight from my fear of perishing that led to a divorce. Something about all of that became apparent in the dream; something about my history was understandable, and leads to a compassion for both the mother of my children, that first marriage that could not hold, and my current relationship with my children and my new wife and her children. Old story. New cast of characters. Multiple possible endings?

Past, present, and future of the clan
Past, present, and future of the clan

A few images from this dream many years ago stay present with me today. One is the idea of the angry pharaoh, disturbed into awakening by a shaking of the order of things. I occasionally have to make peace with the pharaoh; to convince him time marches on, and that people and systems evolve and develop. Another is the portrait of Philip Lindsey, who really does hang in my dining room. His portrait does, rather; he does not personally hang out there; he hangs in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, actually. And another is the notion of the “perpetual motion machine” and what happens when things stop. Sometimes, when caught in a cycle I cannot see ending, I can visualize this machine, see it stop, and then explore what happens next. Do you have a cycle you wish would stop? Can you see yourself living beyond a problem or complex that currently has you so in its grip that it defines you?

Sweet dreams . . . to you and to all sleeping Pharaohs.