Dreamwork: An Art of Interacting with and Learning from Inner Wisdom

The soul can be a guide if we let it.

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Dreamwork is the practice of working with dreams to learn from and interact with them.  This can include keeping a dream journal of important dreams, reflections on the content and feeling of dreams, use of various methods to better understand them, and applying the information obtained from them to enrich our lives.  When done over a period of time, the practice can be life changing and transformative as one comes to see before one’s very eyes the insights and eventual healing taking place within the dreamer.

For a person new to dreamwork, some claims made by dream experts can seem unreal, such as asking for a dream that will help with a specific issue.  Most people don’t know that you can ask for a dream and expect to get a response which can be creative, insightful and healing.  For most people, inspiring dreams, like intuitive insights, are seen as flashes in the pan—a great fortune when you get them but not the type of thing you could ask for or intend.

One of the things that gives me great satisfaction as a dream minister and mentor is to have a person I am working with report that they asked for a dream and actually got an answer!  Usually they tell me this with awe, wonder and the joy of discovery in their voice.  It is so empowering to the dreamer, and that person can readily see the long-range value in a practice that could help them for a lifetime.

Is it a Run of Bad Luck or Is It a Test? The Dreams Will Tell.

Tests of faith produce perseverance.

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When a string of bad things happen to us that we did not bring on ourselves, we might attribute it to bad luck or bad timing. Have you ever thought that it could be a spiritual test which might be like an initiation bringing you to a higher level of spiritual consciousness?

If we are to grow significantly in any endeavor, no matter if it is in a sport or an academic area of expertise, we need to constantly be tested. The same is true in the spiritual life. All the great saints and Jesus himself (Luke 4:1-12) were put to the test at some point in their lives. These tests often marked the reaching of a state of maturity that enabled them to witness to or practice their particular calling.

If you were put to a spiritual test, how would you know it?

Sometimes a random string of negative events is just that. How we react to it can exasperate or strengthen us—a lot depends on our response. Even random events can serve the effort of spiritual growth. However, sometimes we are faced with challenges that are truly meant to define us and bring us to the next spiritual level. In this case, how do we know that it is a real spiritual test and not just a random string of bad luck?

Dreams can literally tell us when we are being tested or when we will undergo a challenging set of events that will serve as a training camp of sorts. I am reminded of a dream I had a couple of years ago where I dreamed that I was summoned to a table of people with a certain calling. However, before I could join this table and be given the “goods” to work at this calling, I would be put to a test. The ensuring couple of years proved to be profoundly challenging with work endeavors that represented my work passion all shutting down. If I did not have this dream that set these very disappointing episodes in the context of a greater scheme, I would have despaired all together and perhaps have given up on work that expressed my passion. In another dream about twenty years ago, I dreamed that I would be put in a training program that would bring me to an “Olympic level” of ability. The subsequent years of learning from my dreams and events in my life that went along with the dream learning certainly had that effect whereby I significantly developed my abilities to work with dreams.

Getting insights into where we are on our spiritual journeys is just another way dreams can be of great help, making on-going dreamwork an important tool for those serious about spiritual growth.

Part II, Intention, Gratitude and Faith: Recipe Ingredients for Transformation

Recipe for Transformation

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In my previous blog, I stated that the road to spiritual transformation is essentially an inward journey that intimately connects us with our body, minds and spirits.  Intention, gratitude and faith are the ingredients that invite miraculous changes on this transformative path, changes that cannot be achieved by just following the rules or doing some other conventional practice.  Why is this so?

The reason is that these traits prepare one for the emptying of self, the total letting go, the kenosis that is ultimately required for transformation.  The emptying of self can be made in countless little decisions or in one major gesture whereby there is a willing and loving pouring out of one’s self, the using of all one’s resources and the expending of all one’s energies to undergo a transformation.  It calls to mind one of St. Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 4:6, “I am being poured out like a libation; and my time of departure has come.” (NOAB, NRSV)  Jesus’ own life was said to be one long emptying of self for the sake of others.

Intention

Intention sets the choice of the individual and indicates in what direction all energies will be utilized and expended, if necessary.  Usually navigating the spiritual path asks a great deal of clear-sightedness, resolve and determination from the seeker.  Setting a firm intention will martial these qualities to serve the journey.

Gratitude

Gratitude has a way of opening and expanding the heart, tuning one to the frequency of higher consciousness energy.  It also has a way of making the person buoyant in the face of adversity.  It raises one up rather than pulling one down.  Gratitude can therefore raise a person above the fray, allowing for peace and well-being.  It is absolutely essential in allowing the person to “let go” with peace of mind.

Faith

Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1, NOAB, NRSV)  It is a type of visionary knowing that instills confidence.  Without faith, one can do nothing involving risk and change.

Applying Intention, Gratitude and Faith to Our Spiritual Practices

Because intention, gratitude and faith are so important, it is very helpful when they are consciously brought into our spiritual life such as in prayers, dreamwork and meditation.  Intention sets one on the particular path.  It is very useful to intend dreams that ask for a specific piece of information or guidance.  It is good training to ask for things needed in prayer.  Faith is thereby deepened when we get answers to prayers and dream requests.  We find we have a give-and-take relationship with divinity.  Gratitude opens us to positive energies on the path because a grateful heart enriches meditation and life by connecting us to higher energies.  And believing all our requests and intentions will be heard and our gratitude appreciated opens the visionary pathway for the change that is to come.

Intention, Gratitude and Faith: Recipe Ingredients for Transformation

Recipe for Transformation

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Many try to live a good life by following the rules and expectations of a religion, family or society.  This practice may indeed bring a “good life” in more ways than one but it is not the primarily what is called for by Jesus and other great religious leaders.  It’s not what they wanted for us.  They wanted what in Christianity was called a metanoia, a change of heart that leads to complete transformation of mind, body and soul—or as some writers call it, the Great Death.  This is not the death of the body, but the death of our former ways of looking at the world which created the negative habits and practices we previously lived by.  It entails a change of identity, a death and rebirth while alive in this body that precludes turning back.  It is transformation at the highest order which entails a great deal more than obeying rules.

Setting Oneself on the Road to Transformation

Assuming, however, that one makes the choice to move beyond following the rules to undergo the transformation, how does one do it?

A very good way to set oneself on the road to transformation is to develop a profound relationship with one’s own mind, body and spirit.  The Kingdom of Heaven is within, as they say.  Therefore, it stands to reason to look here for transformative blessings.  For many people, the Kingdom within is the last place one would look for healing and growth because of the anxiety, depression, confusion, etc. that many people feel on a daily basis.  Yet, this place of often questionable turmoil and striving is the very field of play.

Progress on this inward field can be made by working with dreams, which Freud called the the Royal Road to the Unconscious, along with regular meditation and prayer.  It helps greatly when these practices are done with:

  • great intention to heal and subsequently manifest my true self at its deepest level,
  • gratitude for the many gifts that have been given
  • a profound faith that this transformation and any attendant healing will take place

My next blog will further discussion on why intention, gratitude and faith invite miraculous changes on the transformative path, changes that cannot be achieved by just following the rules. Please click here to see Part II of this blog.

Vulnerability as Seen In Dreams

Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.

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We often don’t “feel” our own vulnerability due to the defensive and denial power of the ego; however, dreams show us when we are vulnerable and this can be a great aid in spiritual development and in generally taking care of ourselves.

The Franciscan friar and spiritual writer, Richard Rohr, states in a very insightful book I heartily recommend, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, that vulnerability “…may be the only start for any true spiritual journey.”  Noticing when we are vulnerable and how our dreams portray this state can significantly help us become aware of how vulnerability affects us individually.  Dreams can often also gives us clues on how to do deal with this state, all of which will contribute much to our spiritual growth and well-being.  Dealing with a vulnerability dream may be the first step to living a deeply spiritual life that is is marked by a profound sense of inner strength and well-being.

Dream Images of Vulnerability

Common images and themes found in dreams that may relate to vulnerability are:

  • Appearing naked or scantily clothed in a public or inhospitable environment.
  • Being lost or wandering in a strange setting
  • Breakdown of one’s vehicle
  • A wounded or diseased body part
  • Losing one’s wallet or purse
What Can Be Done
  1. Instead of forgetting or ignoring these upsetting images, reverence them as profound symbols with messages telling us to take care.
  2. A great way to mine the richness of the dream is to notice and appreciate these images by asking ourselves how they relate to what’s going on in our current life. For example, a loss of a wallet containing an ID card may relate to a sense of losing one’s identity, making us vulnerable to others’ control.
  3. We may even pray about the image, seeking guidance or healing about the issue. If insightful guidance comes, act on it!
  4. Observe if there are helpers in the dream. How are they helping?  Are there persons in one’s waking life that are helping in a corresponding manner?  This may also give clues to nature of the vulnerability.  Are these helpers spiritual in nature, such as a guardian angel?  Also, consider that these helpers may be aspects of oneself such as some talent or skill that could resolve a situation where one feels uncomfortable in waking life.

Can Dreams Foretell Death?

Grim Reaper

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It is quite common to dream about the death of someone close such as friend or relative.  These dreams can be very upsetting because the natural tendency, especially for those who have not observed dreams in depth, is to assume the dream has a literal meaning.  Therefore, the dreamer will often mistakenly assume the person in the dream who died will really die.  In many, and perhaps in a majority of cases, this is not the meaning of the dream.  So what does the dream mean?  In fact, the dream could have one or many meanings!

Dreams as a Reflection of One’s Own Energy

Dreams can come from many sources and have different levels of meaning but one thing is certain: Dreams always have a spiritual meaning in addition to possible literal, physical or emotional meanings.  It is important to consider a death dream first from the spiritual perspective and consider that everything in the dream is representative of energies within oneself.  So one might ask a question like the following that fills in the blanks with a descriptive adjective (happy, ambitious, generous, etc.) such as:

This _______ person reminds me of times when I am ________.  Lately, I haven’t been so _____.  Could this dream mean that that part of me has died or is dying?  Why?  Does the dream give clues?  How does the person die in the dream?  Is something similar happening to me right now?

Dreams that Make a Statement on Our Relationships

Dreams can also give us insight into our relationships with people.  To dream of someone dying may be telling us that our relationship with that person is dying or changing so dramatically that it may be unrecognizable.  It is important to reflect on the relationship and ask if the relationship might be ending or changing dramatically and perhaps make choices that will resuscitate or enrich the relationship, if that is desired.

Dreams that Foretell the Future

There are times indeed when dreams do foretell the actual death of a person, often in a graphic and realistic manner that also comes true.  I had a dream of watching my mother die in the arms of my father.  As soon as I had the dream, I “knew” this dream was a predictive one.  I made the decision to go back to the family home to visit with my parents, suspecting this might be the last chance I would have to see my mother.  I was glad I did because a short while after she passed away. What surprised me was that she died just as my dream indicated, in the arms of my father.  It was as if I had been a fly on the wall and had seen it all transpire ahead of time.

It is possible to also see one’s own death ahead of time.  Abraham Lincoln had a famous dream just a few days before he died of seeing his coffin laid in state in the White House.  A person may also dream about the Grim Reaper visiting, or an angel or possibly a relative who has already passed come to get the dreamer.  Again, the dreamer usually knows at a deep level the meaning of this kind of dream.

So when you dream of someone dying, go through the reflection process above and don’t let false or neurotic fears carry you away.  Chances are, if your dream is a predictive one, you will know it at the gut level, giving you a chance to prepare for the end.

Where Do Dreams Come From?

 Through dreams, the body is a conduit of energy from many sources..

Dreams Come From Many Sources

Dreams can be so flighty and ephemeral and yet so profound and weighty.   It makes one wonder where they come from in the first place.  The answer is that they come from many places inside and outside the body.  According to the quote to the right, Edgar Cayce says they can come from the body, mind and the soul.  This is so because of the amazing nature of the body itself.  The body is a conduit of energy and intelligent information at three levels: physical body, mind and soul.  It can not only send messages about itself to us, such as when we feel pain in an arm, it can also send messages from what is happening in our environment such as when we read information on a billboard.  But more than this, the body can be a receptor and sender of information purely on the energy or spiritual plane—as in cases of intuitive understanding such as mental telepathy and remote viewing.  This is so because the body is connected to the wider energy field in which it lives and can pick up messages if the person’s intuitive receptors are open to this form of communication.

While sleeping, the ego’s strong filtering system of weeding out strange and frightening information is also dormant with its guard down, making the dreamer much more open to receive messages from body, mind and spirit.  For example, the soul can send its messages of value and purpose to the dreamer much more easily than when ego is saying, “I’m afraid to do that!”  The body, itself can send messages to the dreamer if it feels like it’s usual messages of pain are being ignored as when a warning dream of needing to see a doctor presents itself.   Or the mind may send messages of a solution to a problem that the dreamer’s waking mind just can’t grasp.  This is why dreamwork is so effective for keeping in tune with the needs of the body, mind and soul.

Cat Dreams

Pootsie the cat

Pootsie in Dreams & Waking Life

Many people dream about cats, especially people who own and/or care for cats.  It is perhaps one of the most commonly searched dream themes that bring people to my blog so I decided to write a blog just on dreams about cats!

If you do a search on the Internet about the meaning of cats in dreams, you will find various offerings that run from the ridiculous to the profound.  Stay away from explanations that offer pat answers and answers related to superstition.  Our feline friends have had a long and rich relationship with humans collectively and us personally so they deserve much more careful reflection when they appear in our nocturnal journeys of the psyche.

A good starting point for researching the meaning of cats in dreams is to be found in Cloud Nine: A Dreamer’s Dictionary by Sandra A. Thomson which associates a type of psychic energy with the cat: feminine power.  I like this explanation because I personally believe that all images and symbols in dreams represent types of energy within our psyche.  Thus in considering a cat dream symbol I need to ask myself what part of my energy makeup does this dream cat remind me of?  Is it my desire for or joy in independence?  Is it related to the abilities of feminine intuition?  Is it related to a personality trait such as being “catty?”  In a man’s dream would it be related to feminine aspects of his psyche?

In waking life, I do have a tabby cat that is very assertive, curious and smart.  When I dream of her, I not only think of how the dream might relate to or tell me about her as my pet, but also how her energy relates to some kind of energy within me.  In dreams, I am always glad to see her acting boldly and running freely because the dream is probably telling me she is healthy and strong while those aspects of her that live in me are also healthy and strong.

And conversely, when I dream of her being hurt or unwell, it causes me to ask all sorts of questions not only about her well-being but my own as well.  For example, I had a dream that she had a wounded leg which caused her to be immobile.  A while later, that actually did happen and I had to care for her as if she were bedridden.  The dream also was warning me that my own ability to make my way through life with catlike grace and knowing was impeded by wrong turns taken that just weren’t for me.

For additional reading, please see my other blogs:

A Source of Spiritual Insight: The Appearance of Animals in Dreams and Intuitive Inspiration

Working with Dream Themes: Wounded Animals

Many Mansions: Dreams of a Dying Young Man

In my Father's house, there are many mansions...

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Because so many dreams concern themselves with the major transitions in life, dreams not only help us prepare for life, but they also prepare us for death.  There are grief dreams which prepare us for the death of another person or help us through and after that loss.  However, there are also dreams which prepare us for when our time comes.

I am reminded of the dreams of a terminally ill young man.    He was a hospital patient with a rare disease and wanted to share his dreams before he died.  I was asked to come and talk with him because I had recently taught a class at that same hospital on the relationship of dreams to health and well-being.

When I met with him he had perhaps several weeks to live.  He was pale and weak.  He thanked me for coming and said he just wanted to talk to someone who appreciated dreams because he valued his own and wanted someone who would not take his remarks lightly.  Often it is hard to find people who take dreams seriously, and one certainly doesn’t want to be laughed at or about when sharing a dream.  So I told him that I had studied dreams for many years and had taught classes on the subject.  I was very interested in his dreams and would be glad to listen.

Dreams of Many Mansions

The young man told me about a series of dreams he had in the weeks before about seeing a city of many gorgeous homes and magnificent buildings.  He thought that he would be going where those buildings were and live there.  I asked him how he felt about this.  He said the dreams were so beautiful that he wanted to be there.  He said the dreams made him feel comfortable.

Quite often, images in dreams with remind one of imagery in the Bible; however, at the time, I didn’t connect the imagery of many beautiful homes and buildings to Jesus’ quote (John 14:2) that in…”in my Father’s house there are many mansions…” but somehow, I think the young man did.  He passed away a few weeks later.   I would like to think he is there in those mansions.  Certainly, his dream comforted me, fulfilling another role of dreams:  that they often have meanings for others besides the dreamer.

Why Can’t I Remember My Dreams?

When I talk about dreams as being important to our well-being and that it is very healthy to work with and remember dreams, perhaps the most common question is:  Why Can’t I Remember My Dreams?”

There are many possible answers to this question and here or some to consider:

  1. No one told you how important dreams are so at some point in your life, perhaps as a small child, you chose to ignore them. Often parents will tell a child who has just woken up from a nightmare that it was “Just a dream!” and ignore the significance of it, sending a message to the child that dreams are not to be discussed, valued or remembered. As a result, at an early age, you may have made a habit of forgetting them.   A better parenting approach would be to listen to the child’s dream and explore his/her feelings around the dream in a non-judgmental manner, giving a message to the child that something important just happened that he or she can learn from.
  2. Our society values the day dreams but not the night dreams. Western society always encourages people to follow their dreams, i.e., the stuff of their fantasy such as the “dream job” or the “dream house” but it rarely encourages anyone to write down their night dreams or try to resolve issues in those dreams.  In some sects of Christianity, dreams are even thought to be the work of the devil—so unlike traditional societies where dreams were highly valued and heeded.
  3. Some dreams can be frightening, illogical and outlandish so it is often easier to just forget about them than to try to understand them. Dreams tend to run counter the logical, predictable ways of the waking rational mind, often presenting challenges many people either don’t want to face or find irrelevant to the demands of their lives.   Dreams will quite often question the dreamer on how her or she is living their life and this can be troublesome.
  4. Do you get enough sleep to dream? Studies have shown that you need to enter a deep sleep in order to dream.  Dreams that we remember usually occur when we are coming out of the deep sleep stage.  Sometimes they can come just before we enter that stage, making the dream hard to remember.   If you do not get enough sleep, chances are that your body is not going through the stages it needs in order to produce dreams you will remember.  You may not have remained in the post-deep sleep stage long enough for a dream to form.  This is very likely if you are habitually awakened by an alarm clock, rather than allowing yourself to come awake naturally.