Category Archives: Sharing Dreams

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.

 

 

MSoyer Reclining Woman

“I had a Dream about You Last Night!” When to Share, or not to Share . . .

“I had a Dream about You Last Night!” To Share, or not to Share?

Some people would avoid this statement, which sounds like the worst of pick-up lines! Truth is, many times it is inappropriate, ill-advised, or just plain wrong to share this information with someone. Yet at other times, bringing forward this information clarifies the dream and benefits both the dreamer and the be-dreamed. Let’s take up the “Don’ts” before we take up the “Do Shares.”

MSoyer Reclining Woman

Don’t # 1: Don’t pollute the workplace with an inappropriate share! watercooler1

Perhaps your dream was about a subordinate or about a superior. It may even have been a peer, often less dangerous. But when there is a power imbalance, even the best-intentioned sharing of a dream can suggest something on the waking plane that comes to the attention of employment law violations. Sexual content with a superior might suggest, rightly or wrongly, a desire for preferential treatment. A boss who hears a dream with romantic or even non-romantic overtones may question the subordinate’s motives in sharing the dream at best and might suspect gold-digging at worst. Or an unscrupulous boss might think of a way to exploit the dream Sharing with a subordinate might make that person wonder why he or she was the object in a dream, and may result in suspicion or guardedness. Even sharing with a peer, if overtly suggestive or even ambiguous, can create a “hostile work environment” if it is unwelcome.

Don’t # 2: Don’t share dream content that might embarrass the character of the dream.

Actually, I hear this sometimes in the dream group where residents share community. Since they are in a therapeutic process together, this can sometimes come off OK, and sometimes not. The rule, as with most other forms of humor or insight, is that people appreciate when a speaker engages in self-deprecating humor or shares their own corrective epiphany more than humor at the expense of others or hanging out someone else to dry for their behavior. So it is more okay to say “you were in my dream and I did a silly thing,” than it is to say, “you did something silly in my dream last night.” This is just a common sense form of social grace, perhaps, but it is a norm violated with enough frequency that it bears mentioning.

Don’t # 3: Don’t share a dream about a person in front of a group of people.

Even a harmless dream can put someone on the spot if it occurs in front of the water cooler. The object of the dreamer may feel a need to perform, laugh off the dream, and may be more concerned about what others are thinking in the moment. If they were told the dream one on one, then they may have a different, and perhaps less guarded reaction.

Enough restrictions. Now for what to DO. Sharing a dream with a person you dreamed about can deepen the dream experience in a meaningful way. Also, if acknowledges that maybe the dream represents some common meaning or task that you and the person in your dream share. So if your motives are sound, and if the situation falls in one of the following categories, reach out to the person involved, and share the dream as long as if feels safe for all and appropriate in timing.

Do share the Dream # 1: Your Spouse or Partner Appears with you in the Dream

Less so in our contemporary culture, but in many settings the sharing of dreams around the breakfast table has been an accepted and honored occurrence. And if you do not absolutly have to know the traffic report, the weather, or who was on the red carpet last night, dream sharing with your spouse or partner is a person-centered and loving way to start the day whether they joined you in the dream or not. Listening to your partner’s dream is also an act of love regardless of your presence or absence as dramatis personae.

Do share the Dream # 2: The Neglected (or Negligent) Friend

How often do I have a dream of someone that was once a more important part of my life than Kleeat this time! My college roommate recently sent me a Holiday card featuring his marriage of six months ago – of which I was unaware. He inhabits my dreams a lot, and what an opportunity that presents to reach out. After all, he and I spoke of sharing a Personal Mythology years before David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner wrote of one. So when one of us appears in the dream of the other, he and I are more likely to be able to help each other in working out the imagery of the dream than one of us might be independent of aid from the other. In fact, a dream about Mark called “Sanctuary” about 20 years ago has been the basis of many recurring dreams I have had dealing with growth and the quest for learning. So the friend can help with the dream, and the dream can help with the friend – by giving you both an entree for reaching out and talking about life, what is happening now, and the fact you miss one another.

Do share the Dream # 3: When Someone’s Health may be an Issue

OK, we have many more dreams that something bad is happening to someone we like and love than actually occurs in real life. I have a dream a relative is dying, has cancer, or is in someway weakened or debilitating. That does not give me clearance to call them up and vomit my morbid fears on them. But maybe it does suggest I call and start a conversation. I do not even have to bring up the dream, unless spontaneity suggests candor is appropriate. In reaching out, the friend may have something to tell me. Maybe my call or visit is an opportunity for that friend to share something on their mind – about me or not, about their health or not. More than 9 times out of ten I do not bring up the dream. But in nearly every case, I appreciate the dream has encouraged me to reach out. It is the connection that counts, and dreams perpetually remind me the subtle, amazing, and sometimes dramatic ways in which we are all connected. For that, I am today truly grateful!

Ao this is a partial list – feel free to post your own “Do’s and Don’ts” in the “Dream Loves a Dream” comment section!

cropped-AthensAcropolisDawnAdj06028.jpg

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.