Tag Archives: Personal Mythology

DreamTending Venue 2~1

Settings for Working with the Dream

Place.

There is something about working with a dream that invites consciousness of place. The first time I met Ed Casey, in April of 2006, he mentioned how beautiful a place Ojai [California] is. “You should go there when you have time.” Ed is the author of many books about place:

Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History (University of California Press, 1997)
Getting Back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (Indiana University Press, 1993; second, expanded edition, 2009)

So when Ed tells you to go someplace, you go. Seven years and 30 trips to Southern California later, I went. And Ojai is a beautiful place.

Ojai Valley

I was fortunate enough to have a couple of classes with Ed on Phenomenology and Ecology between the time of his recommendation and the time of my visit, and I was not the same person in part because of the the result of his frame of reference. I got there just before sunset, and the depth of my appreciation for Ojai and for Ed would be the subject of another blog.

For now I am concerned with the setting in which we work a dream, and the view from Ojai might be just such a place.DreamTending Venue 4~1 cropped  So might the comfort of one’s own study, office, or the outdoors. Just as in remembering a dream, the setting in which it occurs is so important, so it is when re0inviting the presence of the dream in waking consciousness. When working with the images of a dream, as suggested in the work of James Hillman, Steven Aizenstat, or Robert Johnson, paying attention to the surroundings might be a key element in our ability to invite the image to come alive.

Some qualities to consider when sitting with a dream:

  • Quiet may be important, and limited interruption
  • Absence of electronic image, foreground and back
  • Access to art materials, clay, sand, or sketchbook
  • An inviting setting for the Guest, free from distraction
  • A flame, optional, representing the living image
  • Something organic; a flower, a plant, light
My favorite place to have my dreams held by a mentor
My favorite place to have my dreams held by a mentor

So in my home, I have a place for me and a Guest, whether that Guest be a dream figure of someone working with a dream:

DreamTending Venue 1~3 croppedAnd in that space the chairs are almost at a right angle. The attention is not on me, but allows for the attention of one or more people to be on the place in the room where the image will come. The door through which she may walk; the shelf on which it may perch; the floor on which he may sit.

DreamTending Venue 2~3

Office, too, has the same position of space; plenty of light; and invitation to doors and windows for the dream image to approach. There is also something in this that reminds me of the sign in Jung’s office, translating to the English, “Bidden or Unbidden, God is Present.” That’s a sound reminder that the Higher Power or the Pantheon is not a mere lackey to be conjured up: Always present is the Psyche. Always here is the Divine. Always at DreamTending Venue 4~3 Croppedhand is the Image. What differs is not the quality of that Presence, but our [my] ability to be present and to connect with that image. So whether it is a solitary spot or a group setting, as below, thee is always room for more. Isolation may be the choice but solitude can get very crowded very quickly. And pictures herein do not do justice to the majesty of the settings in which very personal and very transpersonal work with the dream image can be done. If you are new to dreamwork and want to know how, this particular entry offers little help, except perhaps to point to those who know better. Those who know, better.

DreamTending Venue 5~5

So I have Ed Casey on my mind as I am flying to Southern California tomorrow. And though it is somewhat out of my way, I am intending to drive the windy path to Ojai, and to worship at the Cathedral of Place recommended by Ed.

 

 

Mefloquine (Anti-malarial) Structural Formulae

In Defense of the Nightmare: Why Troubled Sleep Sometimes Makes Sense

Common formula these days: Can’t sleep or bad dreams; go to the doctor; get a prescription to wipe out your dreams. A 2006 Dissertation by Kimberly-Anne Ford, Mefloquine dreams: Exploring the subjective experience of risk and safety and its role in the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs in Canada, explored the subjective experience in dreams of drug side effects. While that was only a part of the ethical considerations raised in the dreams, it is a step into the truism that something happens in our dreams when we are not taking psychotropic medicine, and something else happens with our dreams when those medicines are introduced.

Mefloquine (Anti-malarial) Structural Formulae
Mefloquine (Anti-malarial) Structural Formulae

I was talking recently with a friend who was riveted one weekend with the coverage of two horrific world news stories unfolding at once: The violence in the Gaza strip around mutual shelling from/to civilian areas, and the Russian Separatist activities including the militant shooting down of a civilian flight killing nearly 300 peFractured Earthople. Whether it is Kosovo of ten years back, Beirut of three decades ago, vulnerability to terrorist attacks since 9/11, or other forms of consistent national violence, it becomes clearer that the world can be unsafe and unsettling.

Pair that with the trauma on a personal level that happens all over this country: One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. The “Ray Rice” situation is horrific for that family, as is every situation in which domestic violence occurs,  and for them it is happening in public. The fact that this and other NFL stars such as Peterson, MacDonald, Dwyer, and Hardy, are all in the spotlight elevates the visibility of a previously invisible problem. One in every 240 Americans will be murdered – at present homicide rates. Aaron Hernandez, a former NFL star, is now awaiting trials on multiple murders.

Today, one in every 34 Americans is either incarcerated or under supervision – meaning there is a lot of crime out there – and a good deal of punishment. And on top of the nastiness that occurs among friends or in our homes, nearly all adults as of this writing watched the horror of 9/11 unfold in real time on live TV just thirteen years ago. There is not an illusion we are safe from THEM (Russians, Terrorists, Asians, Muslims, Drug Cartels) or from US (Excessive Government, Militia, Police, Swat Teams, Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Gangs, and Dodger Fans). So part of the question might be, “Why don’t we have more nightmares than we actually do?”

Ebenezer Scrooge

Nightmares operate on several levels. Even that statement, simple enough, operates on a lot of levels. There are night terrors, more prevalent in childhood, more present in trauma survivors (and onot always explained by trauma). These are not the nightmares of the nearly well: these are debilitating physiological and psychological events. Recently, I met a woman receiving treatment for PTSD, and one of her prescriptions is in place to take away her nightmares. Where, then, do they go? Should we not be disturbed? Are we paying attention enough? Are we doing enough?

Traumatic events bring about more horror than the mind can process. Imagined fears can bring about a similar effect to realized terrors. And these overwhelming urges arise in our sleep, some say so that they may be dealt with in a way and at a time that we are prepared to handle them. Wipe our our REM state of sleep, and what are the consequences? Where do those images go? Are we simply bandaging our wounded so they can return to the front lines of home, family, war, workplace, and not feel like the bad things that happen really occur? I am asking not because I have answers, nor because I want them; but more, as Rilke said, because I love the questions. Today, I live the questions.

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is,to live everything. Live the questions now.

– Ranier Maria Rilke

 

 

Welsh Rarebit

Nemo, Jason, and Fictional Characters in Dreamtime: A Shout-Out to Winsor McCay

Orca Whales in Play

I have dreams of orca whales and owls but I wake up in fear. . .

– Regina Spektor, “Hotel Room”

So when is a whale a symbol, and when is it “Free Willy?” Do Jason or Freddy Kruger now live in the collective unconscious, and therefore creep endlessly from dream to dream? And what about reading ourselves to sleep and dreaming by extension of the characters in the book? And when we tell our children, “Sweet Dreams,” are we simply making cute conversation, or performing a subtle dream incubation ritual?

Thanks are in order to my daughter, Kathryn, who suggested this post and also introduced me to Regina Spektor returning from a baseball game we saw together. Kathryn, since this post will miss the mark of what you had in mind by a lot, please leave a lengthy comment improving the piece!

In Boswell’s Life of Johnson, the biographer quotes his subject as reading Hamlet so young, “that the speech of the Ghost in Hamlet terrified him when he was alone.” The time of youth is still a magical time. In a recent dream group, a participant shared a recurring dram from her youth; that she and her sister were in an orphanage trying to escape a fire. She was a huge fan of the Musical “Annie” which she saw on Broadway young; her takeaway was that maybe her love for her parents was a fear they might be taken away. So scared of this dream was she that she would await at the top of the steps until they went to bed so she could sleep knowing she was not alone in the house. Ina way, she had developed an inner Orphan who was already watching out for herself.

For a couple of years in the late 1990s, I was conducting a weekly dream group with adolescent males in state custody. Their frequent answer to the question, “Name something that has chased you in a dream” would be a villain from a Friday the 13th or Halloween type movie. I have no doubt that the premature exposure of youth to “R” rated material affects their dreamtime (if nothing else.) And yet the chase dream is a common, terrifying rite of passage for most children, and without a projection figure such as Freddy Kruger, children can come up with their own terrifying images, sometimes distortions of people they know, sometimes apparently made out of whole cloth.

The “Nemo” in the title is unrelated to the Disney character, although I am sure many youngsters of the Nemo era have (mostly happy) dreams of those popular figures. There was actually a comic strip by Winsor McCay running from 1905 to 1914 (and then a shorter run in the 1920s) called “Little Nemo in Slumberland. ” In each brightly colored Sunday panel, Nemo walked the readers through rich imaginative drams with characters of faraway lands and the mythological realm, generally ending with him waking up in such a way to incorporate dream content. The panel below (best viewed HERE) shows Nemo having a frightful encounter with Father Time in which he ages prematurely, only to be comforted by his mother upon awakening.

Little Nemo and Father Time

So the Nemo series actually offers a formula about the effect of the environment on dreams, and the effect of dreams on the dreamer. In a timely note, McCay was pretty phenomenal with his dream strips, as he was also the author of “Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend,” the Welsh Rarebitpredecessor comic strip to Little Nemo. The thesis of that strip was the wives tale that eating spicy food, like Welsh Rarebit (pictured at left) could induce nightmares. See also the Gomer Pyle episode of same theme). McCay was also a visionary cartoonist, as we know animation today, and in 1918 finished the production of a silent film on the German sinking in 1915 of the passenger ship Lusitania, which is remarkably under noticed by comparison to the Titanic disaster, but so very timely in light of the recent Russian separatist shooting down of Malaysian Air Flight MH17 over the Ukraine.  A link to the remainder of his production of the Lusitania sinking is on his Wikipedia page, and worth the 10 minute investment of time (as opposed to the 25 minutes to watch Gomer Pyle).

dream-of-the-rarebit-fiend-19050816-l

So this post is a tribute in honor of Winsor (not Windsor) McCay, a visionary man (who may have had a little trouble with beverage alcohol) but whose inclusion of dreams in fictional accounts and his fictional accounts of the world of dreams fired the imagination of millions in the early part of the previous century.