Tag Archives: Steve Aisenstat

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DreamStars: 5 Reasons for Dreaming of Famous Folk

Some people dream of the Rich and Famous all the time; for others it is rare to dream of someone famous. I’ve had quite a few dreams of Governors and Presidents, fewer dreams if any about people from Hollywood or Music Row (I live in Nashville). My favorite such dream occurred the morning after the Presidential Election in 2008 as the last image I had before going to sleep was that proud American moment – for Democrats and Republicans alike – when the Obama family waved at all of us from Grant Park in Chicago. My dream went like this:

There is a restaurant associated with a retreat center and I am coming in – lots of glass and several sections, some large, to the restaurant. It is compartmentalized perhaps in the same way as the parking garage was yesterday in real life at the doctor’s office. At any rate. I wind up sitting with Bill Clinton about 20 minutes or so. We talk and he is glib and very much at ease. I may share with him a dream I had about Hilary. [A woman from ] contracts brings him a cup of coffee and asks if I would like one too, out of courtesy, and I reply “I would, thank you”. Thinking then of cream and equal, which I see on the table, I say, “I’ll have mine black.”

I woke up amused for a couple of Obama Clintonreasons, one being the comfort and ease that Bill Clinton displayed like a regular guy, reading the paper as I recalled in the dream. And of course, endorsement of the change to a new president, “I’ll have mine black.” I never order black coffee!

Dr. Michael Lennox in his book Dream Sight tells us that celebrities are the gods and goddesses of today; the images of publicity now rule where the Olympians reigned in the time of the original Dream Temples. So in one sense, those personalities to whom we give our time and attention may constellate in the dreamtime. I was concerned in another dream that Sigmund Freud, with whom I had been hanging out all day, was eating pork for dinner. I then decided it must be my issue, not his. Very apt, since he had been dead sixty-five years when I dreamed thus.

Research says that dreams of famous people occur perhaps less than you would expect. But that research is evolving, and as Americans face more and more screen time in their week, It doesn’t take a lot for a Snooki or a Kim Kardashian to emerge in the dreamtime.  So the question I often hear is, how do I know if that really is Dr. House in my dream? Here are five explanations of the Rich and Famous appearing in your dreamscape:sb10067679x-001

1) You want to be noticed. Maybe you’re feeling a little low profile in the workplace, unappreciated at home, or maybe just want to catch the attention of someone in particular. Sharing the spotlight with someone famous is a way of name-dropping, perhaps.

2) The famous person carries a meaning that is important to you. If it is a political figure, the dream may sharpen, challenge, or justify your views. Someone glamorous in a dream may ask you how well you are caring for your appearance and wellness. And the presence of a spiritual or religious icon may invite you to awaken the part of you that has compassion or connection for others.

3) “Day Residue:” Or, a recent exposure to the images of that person. Ever awaken with that song in your mind you heard the day before?  Sometimes these hook lines and catch phrases stay with us for days. So it is when watch Television or see a movie. Some dreams seem to be mostly a continuation of the drama with ourselves in it. In a way, my dream of the presidents was more likely a leftover from watching the election outcome than it was a desire to hang out with Bill Clinton. Focus on what is different about you in the dream, what is the theme of the action, or what makes this dream your dream and not theirs?

Celebrate good times. Come on!
Celebrate good times. Come on!

4) Wish fulfillment and Fantasy: Sometimes, we just want to win the lottery and party with the Kardashians. Come on, admit it!

5) Compensation. (This is not about getting a raise at work) Compensation is a term coined by Alfred Adler in 1907 in a work about the concept of inferiority feelings. The short cut is we admire in others some aspects we lack or are currently developing.

Carl Jung used tell us to pay attention to the little people in dreams. It is not always the big shot – we must ask, “what about the dream of the celebrity really applies to us?” So even if dreaming of celebrities is a rare event, it sometimes makes the dream memorable enough to recall and share the next day. That makes it noteworthy – it is a portal into our dream world, and if we can get beyond the initial amusement, we might just learn something about ourselves.

 

Tiber Island, Dream Temple in Rome from 290 BC

Asclepius in Rome

Tiber Island, Rome
Tiber Island, Rome

It seems fitting to follow a post on snakes with a post on the archetype of healing, Asclepius. Homer identified Asclepius in the Iliad as the physician father of a couple of excellent physicians. Carl Kerenyi argues that a narrow interpretation of that slender reference misled Asclepian scholars throughout the nineteenth and half the twentieth centure in assuming he was some local tribesman not far removed from Homer’s hometown. There is evidence of an older and more developed notion of Asclepius and of the wounded healer several hundred years before Homeric times. At any rate, Asclepius is most identified with his major temple at

Asclepius with Serpent-Rod
Asclepius with Serpent-Rod

Epidaurus in Greece, but in the center of Rome, not a mile (as the vulture flies) from the Colosseum, lies Tiber Island, home to an ancient Asclepian Temple. Separating myth and legend from fact concerning the origins of Tiber Island is no easy task, so we will let all three stand together as so frequently occurs in these posts. Tiber Island dates to antiquity and legends that go back to ca. 510 BC and to the fall of the unpopular despot Tarquin the Proud. That a temple of Asclepius thrived there comes into more historical clarity in the documentation surrounding a third century BC outbreak of plague in Rome. The Senate consulted the Sybil, priestess of Apollo, and were told to seek the cure for the plague in “the one who wounds,”  specifically, to fetch Asclepius himself from Epidauros. So a boat was dispatched for that purpose.

Hesitant to leave the comfort of his temple for travel to the Roman Senate, Asclepius agreed to send his proxy in a snake. He announced his decision by appearing – in a dream of course – to the Roman Senator Ogulnius. Ovid gives this a Roman account: “Be not afraid; I shall come and leave my statues,/ But see this serpent, as it twines around/ The rod I carry: mark it well, and Learn it/ For I shall be this serpent, only larger/ Like a celestial presence.” So the divine, celestial passenger rode first class from the Temple at Epidaurus

Tiber Island Coin showing bridges, snake
Tiber Island Coin showing bridges, snake

and within just a few oar strokes of the seat of the Roman Empire, the enthusiastic snake jumped ship and headed for the Tiber Island. Now, if you are captain of that ship, sent to bring home a Greek god and returning empty handed, you have two choices: either admit you lost the sacred snake and that you spent two months traveling for nothing, or amaze the senate with your tale of how the snake chose the island with religious zeal. So there, three hundred years before Christ started teaching, in this manner upon Tiber Island was founded the Roman Temple to Asclepius that later became the site of St. Bartholomew.

So, what happens in a dream temple? Yes, the goal is healing, and just how is this to be accomplished.? Anthony Shafton tells us in the SUNY press Contemporary Dream Reader that the setting and the process was to facilitate a dream through incubation. Shafton reminds us of the Freudian notion of day residue, that virtually anything that happens in the day may become grist for the dream mill. People came to the temple in order to receive inspiration from the god, Asclepius himself, dwelling in the temple, much the same as Christians might look for the Holy Ghost at church.  Now for a fun fact that Shafton points out: The online Merriam-Webster links the word “clinic” to the following etymology:

Clinic MWSo there it is, straight from the Asclepian Dream Temple to the 19th century Viennese consulting room couch. Dreamers were encouraged to relax, bathe, and recline for the dream or vision that would come in the temple. In the Abaton, a holy dormitory, pilgrims would lie on a couch, and sleep for a numinous encounter. The inspiration would carry the medicine. Because a one thousand year old temple stands on the site of the ancient dream temple, there are no archeological excavations of the Dream Temple at Tiber Island to verify location and floor plan. We do know that a well predating the church operated for quite some time, and water was an important cleansing part of the overall healing ritual.

In working with dream images today, it is my belief that every dream -even the dark ones – carry a form of medicine within. The wonderful thing about a dream group is that neither I nor the dreamer has to be smart enough to figure that out – someone in the group will inevitably find a peace that is affirming and available to the dreamer, which the dreamer has the right to accept, reject, or revise. Whether the Greeks and Romans would largely personify Asclepius as the god of the dream, or whether the images themselves seemed to be a part of the pantheon, we can only guess. I suppose many people had concrete notions of Asclepius, and others understood him as a spirit of the living dream image.

Tiber Island Image 4

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Dreams are Alive: The Dream is Always Now

It is not what is said about the dream after the dream, but the experience of the dream after the dream. A dream compared with a mystery suggests that the dream is effective as long as it remains alive.

– James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld, p. 122

I am grateful to living people with vibrant souls who have occasionally sat with me and my dreams. These include Steve Aisenstat, who introduced me to the phrase “Dreams are alive” in 1998, Nancy Gallindo, who has organized several retreats in which I have been able to live with dream in a vibrant landscape, and Burger Vaughn, who taught me there is no such thing as a clock when sitting with someone else’s dream. And from Jim Hillman, in lecture, in print, and in the few candid informal conversations I was fortunate to have, I learned that the dream image is not something to be wrestled with in the dark to bring captive into daylight. One meets the dreams on the terms of the dream, or as Steve Aizenstat says, “we meet the dream in the way of Dream.”

In the earliest nightmare I recall:

I am in a cellar of an old, old building. The cold floor is made of concrete, and it is dark except for the small light, surrounding me, like a spotlight. It is like there is a circular balcony above me, I am in a dungeon, and there are a bunch of men in black robes above, each calling me guilty.

I could not have been more than about four years old, but I have always thought I was younger. Immediately I sought refuge in my parents bed, seized with terror. Notice how in the dream above, I am speaking in first person, present tense, as though the dream is happening now and unfolding before me in real time. Sometimes this is hard: dreams do not always seem to happen in sequence. Time is “unstuck,” like Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. But in recalling, retelling, or writing a dream, my mentors have encouraged me to treat the dream like a living thing, not speaking of it as dead and past. Speak like it is alive and in the room, now.

Not until many years later reading Henry Charles Lea’s Inquisition of the Middle Ages did this scene seem powerfully centered in another time. Maybe I had recently seen an old movie about a dungeon. Was this nightmare a manifestation of Original Sin? Maybe I had upset a parent in toilet training, hence the feeling of guilt. Very hard to reconstruct now fifty years later what was going on in my very young life in terms of “day residue” or stressors. But the dream is clear and has a time and a life of his own, and serves something as a touchstone to key times in my life when the dream made its meaning more and more available to me. In the living image of the cellar in the living image of the council still sit I, or the living image of “I.” Not all dreams stay so fresh:

Day-Blind

One clap of day and the dream
rushes back
where it came from. For a moment
the ground is still moist with it.
Then day settles. You step onto dry land.

Morning picks out the four
corners, coffeepot, shawl of dust
on a cupboard. Stunned
by brightness, that dream —
where did it go?

All day you grope in a web
of invisible stars. The day sky soaks them up
like dreams. If you could see
in the light, you’d see what fires
keep spinning, spinning their mesh of threads

around you. They’re closer
than you think, pulsing
into the blue. You press your forehead
to the cool glass.

They must be out there in all that dazzle.

Chana Bloch Ms. Dumpty

When I sit with a client, as I have for fifteen years now, exploring their dreams, I ask them to tell the dream “as though it is unfolding before you right now, in first person and in present tense.” I don’t always correct them when they lapse into third person (or occasionally second person, “you walk into a large room and you see purple curtains all around . . . .”) There are exceptions to this – sometimes a person does not have a dream ego present, watching the dream as though it is a play or a movie in front of them. Mostly, retaining the reference of the dreamer in first person keeps them rooted not just to the action of the dream, but their feelings and thoughts as well. Present tense, though, is the more important element. Working with a single dream over time allows a person to see how even a single image from the dream can, without changing, deepen its meaning for the life of the dreamer.

EXERCISE:

Clock and Writing PadWrite down the last dream you can remember. Don’t worry if you can’t remember a dream from last night or this week, write down any dream you can recall. It’s okay to practice getting it in the right order or to leave parts unstuck in time. When you are finished, proofread to make certain you have used first person and present tense. Read the dream aloud, and as you do so, notice any emotion that comes up that you did not recall when writing the dream out originally. Now that you have a revised dream in front of you, ask, “what did this dream (or image) mean to me when I had the dream? What does it mean to me now? In a later blog, we will talk about dream councils, and how a dream image may become an important voice in helping you make sense not just out of your dreams but out of your life.