Dreamwork & Meditation: Experiential Practices to Access the True Self

Recording dreams regularly will provide many insights not otherwise available to the waking mind.

Recording Dreams: A Form of Dreamwork

In a Spiritual Book Club I am facilitating, the members selected a very profound and experienced-based book by John Welwood called Toward a Psychology of Awakening.  At the start, Welwood makes the point that his Christian upbringing (and it is my personal opinion, many of our Christian upbringings) did not provide experiential practice for realizing our true natures even though there was wonderful ritual and music.  As a result, Welwood, like me and many in my generation, turned to Asian religions and other sources for insight.  Even today, I personally believe this is the primary reason why serious seekers are not attracted to the mainline Christian religions: there is often too much emphasis on the organization, joining it, being a member, and contributing to it—when what people really want is an experience of the divine!

In studying Buddhism at the graduate level, I was fortunate to have mentors who were well versed not only in meditation but also in working with dreams.  For me, it was primarily through dreamwork that I first developed a spiritual methodology that gave me a deeply meaningful experiential access to the spiritual life and its healing.  Later, through meditation, I experienced the power of intuition and other states of consciousness that inform one of the wide and awesome nature of our true being.  With such experience, the scriptures, rituals and music had all the more meaning!  I could personally relate to the stories of salvation and God’s presence in our lives.  These no longer seemed like myths and fairy tales.  Religion was no longer about following the rules or joining a group but about living a rich experience-based life with fellow seekers.

I think that if Christianity is to thrive, it will have to incorporate experiential practices such as dreamwork and meditation into regular activities such as bible class and Sunday school.

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Dreams Help Us See the Bigger Picture

While reading the biblical story of Joseph welcoming his brothers into Egypt years after they had sold him into slavery (Genesis 45:1-15), and noticing his forgiving and gracious reception of those who did him in, it was clear to see that Joseph understood the bigger picture of God’s plan in the awful treatment his brothers gave him.  Joseph held no grudges or desire for revenge.  Instead, he welcomed his brothers, saying “God sent me here to preserve life.”  He was able to offer his brothers refuge in Egypt from the famine that was rampant.

Joseph was a famous dreamer of dreams.  He had vivid prophetic dreams which told him early on he would have power over his older siblings.  This, of course, is what added fuel to the flames of sibling rivalry, resulting in his being sold into slavery.  Later, Joseph’s dreams and ability to interpret dreams won him Pharaoh’s favor in Egypt.  In other words, Joseph knew all along his troubles would lead him to greatness, even though he probably suffered greatly when his dreams seemed far from having anything to do with reality.  However, he kept the faith and believed in his dreams.

Being in touch with one’s dreams over a long period of time gives one clues to the major themes, meanings, challenges, loves and tragedies of one’s life.  Much of this drama is played out ahead of time in dreamtime if one is only “awake” enough to witness it, record it and remember it.  As they say, the story is not nearly so scary when there is an inkling of the ending, and the drama doesn’t dominate one so much.  An aware dreamer like Joseph is able to act with kindness because he or she understands the deeper meanings already suggested in dreamtime.

Joseph’s ability to see the big picture of his life surely made him understand that resentments, grudges and revenge had no place in the greater drama of God’s plan as shown to him in dreams.  It lifted him above the level of cruelty and pettiness of his siblings to a higher consciousness where God gave him the grace to act well on a grand stage.  If we are in touch with our dreams, they will guide us through the story of our lives, helping us to act with dignity and graciousness even in the worst of times.

Help Me Grow A Spiritual Life Program at St. Mary of Mo’ili’ili

Spiritual Life Program at St. Mary's, Honolulu

Grow Spiritual Seeds

If you like the blogs I have posted giving concrete and practical information on how dreams and intuition can be used to improve health and grow spiritually, please help me grow a Spiritual Life Program at St. Mary of Mo’ili’ili in Honolulu, Hawaii.  We are just now launching a fundraising campaign to support classes on spirituality, dreamwork, meditation and mindful exercise as well as to offer a guest speaker program and other activities-all of which serve to honor the body, mind and spirit, holistically.  Under the supervision of St. Mary’s rector, the Rev. Greg Johnson, I will manage the program and teach many of the classes as money becomes available. Perhaps there will be something of interest to you. Certainly your financial help will help us grow seeds planted by the late Rev. Nancy Conley at St. Mary’s.

To go to our GoFundMe page and find out more, please click on the link below:

https://www.gofundme.com/StMary-SpiritualLife

You may also fund the conventional way by making out a check to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, for Spiritual Life Program/Ministries on the memo line.  Checks can be mailed to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 2062 South King St., Honolulu, HI  96826.

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

Tests of faith produce perseverance.

Image via Pinterest.

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

Image via Pinterest.

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.

Vulnerability as Seen In Dreams

Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.

Image via Pinterest

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.

My new blog on a call for Spirituality: Three Women at the Tomb

Justifying one's own behavior

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Recent political events have made me question how a so many voters in a so-called Christian country could vote for a candidate who is more unprepared, unqualified, unsuited and uniformed than any presidential candidate in our nation’s history.  I can understand the need for change, a need for a new way of doing things.  But why didn’t they select a candidate who represented the highest of their hopes and spiritual ideas, and not the worst of their prejudices and fears?  I was stunned that so many people were willing to compromise principle in this election.  That is very similar to the rise of Adolph Hitler.  Does the end justify the means?  Apparently so, just as it did in the worst of the fascist and communist purges.

One has to ask why so many so-called Christians voted this way in the US and in pre-war Germany.  Was it the way they were trained in the Christian faith to be faithful servants to an organization and not to Jesus himself?  Jesus was a radical who was opposed to violence and treated everyone equally.  He was against the accumulation of wealth. It is no wonder the pope sent such an urgent reminder to President Trump.

When Christian Americans were voting, where was the spiritual depth to see that HOW WE DO THINGS IS AS IMPORTANT AS GETTING ORGANIZED AND GETTING THINGS DONE? The soul is in the how, not in the doing.  I have started a new blog that issues a call to get spirituality as found in the true model of Jesus out of the shadows and bring it front and center to shine real light on Christian action.  Please visit my blog https://3womenatthetomb.wordpress.com/.

Dreams of Spiritual Transformation

Symptoms of Spiritual Awakening

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Big changes in life are usually easy to detect.  We all recognize when there is a need to change a job, or a desire to get married.  There are external and internal catalysts that tell us it’s time to make a change.   We no longer feel the job is right for us or we meet a special person who awakens new and wondrous feelings.  We go ahead and make the decisions that set in place the change, and change happens.   We get a new job or we get married.   Our lives are transformed.   We judge the success of the change by the outcome of the new job or marriage.

Monitoring Spiritual Transformation is Often Not So Simple

On the spiritual level, the need to make a change, as well as the ability to monitor the success and degree of change is often a lot more subtle, and may take years to notice if we lead a busy, work-filled lifestyle.  The catalysts for spiritual change, especially the profound and life altering changes at the soul level, such as the need to live for a deeper reason, or a loss of feeling comfortable with the way things are can bring on rich, insightful, and even guiding dreams that help one through the often difficult challenges and obstacles that happen later in the process of spiritual transformation.  Dreams help us get prepared for the shift at the soul level.

Dreamwork Helps Monitor Spiritual Change

Doing dreamwork over a long period of time has many advantages, and one of them is the ability to see one’s own spiritual transformation take place before one’s eyes, over a period of time, presently or imminently—before it actually manifests in waking life.  This can be especially helpful if one is going through a long, dark period when no glimmer of hope for change seems so on the horizon.

This transformation can be seen in dreams by symbols and stories of change.  A symbols doesn’t have to be obviously spiritual or religious, but the dreamer will make the association if it is.   An important symbol in the dream may actually morph and change shape, showing the type of transformation that will take place.  A process taking place in the dream may symbolize what the dreamer will go through.  Voices may actually tell the dreamer that change has taken place, or will take place.

I am reminded of a recent dream I had where I parked my car and walked off, only to return to find that my old car had morphed into an amazing new car that had a special feel to it.  Someone in the dream scene told me that I had parked my car in a “zone of transformation” so that caused the car to be transformed!  Previously in the past couple of years, I had dreams of my old car having brake and tire problems—even being blown up, all of which seem to reflect the many spiritual challenges I faced at this time that related to making my way through life.  This transformational dream related to my car certainly lets me know that all those challenges are leading to change!

Integrating the Kundalini Experience into Christian Practice

Christianizing Kundalini

The Cross and the Seven Chakras

A kundalini awakening, the release of the primal life force or mother energy, from the base of the spine and moving upward to the brain, is a human phenomenon experienced by some throughout the world but only fully recognized and studied in the Hindu culture as a process of spiritual transformation.   Therefore, when it happens to non-Hindus, it can be a confusing, troubling and even devastating event wreaking havoc in people’s lives, especially in those who do not seek out the awakening or understand its profound spiritual, emotional and physical meanings.   Moreover, kundalini is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed by doctors and psychologists, adding more suffering to those who live with often varied, bizarre and intense symptoms following the experience.

For a devout traditional Christian who finds out what has happened to him or her, it can be even more shocking because the experience is not articulated, promoted or condoned in the Bible or Christian teachings.  A reading of the lives of the saints, however, will tell us that many saints experienced kundalini symptoms on their spiritual journeys.

“Christianizing” Kundalini

A kundalini event, and the changed life that comes after, can be integrated into Christian practice and can greatly inform and aid the believer in spiritual, psychological and physical healing.   When kundalini energy works in the body, it works at the cellular level to cleanse the body of everything that doesn’t belong there—from negative thought patterns to illnesses of every sort.  It is a matter of believing something profound is going on and accepting a process that can at times be painful and disconcerting.  The ego’s defenses weaken by its onslaught, and eventually wear away.   What can the Christian do to bring this process into a Christian framework?

  • Many spiritual gifts will come with this event such as visions and the ability to see auras. Use these gifts to help you along.  For example, when my kundalini energy opened, I had a vision of Jesus standing by me, bringing peace to me during those first frightening symptoms such as intense migraines.  I knew instinctively that something spiritual was happening to me.  I was not “sick.”  I also received the gift to intuitively diagnose physical conditions.  I was told in dreamtime to use this whenever I encountered strange sensations in my body.
  • Therefore, If Jesus or a saint or angel appears, pray to this spiritual being to be your guide in working with the energy so that you may be transformed into the person you are meant to become. Your spiritual guide will provide guidance and support.
  • Pray using energy and healing concepts that blend Hindu and Christian beliefs, if you feel comfortable doing it. An example is my version (others have done something similar) of the Lord’s Prayer, written to show how the points of the prayer coincide with the seven chakras, or energy centers, of Hindu teachings.  Click here to see sample.
  • Do dreamwork by
    • Keeping a dream journal and reflecting on the dreams recorded. Dreams will let you know much about the purpose and the process of your kundalini experience.  They will let you know of the ups and downs, the flow of the energy and the progress you have made in working with the energy.  Also this website contains a number of articles on working with kundalini energy such as Symbols for Kundalini Energy in Dreams: Volcanoes.  Click on “Kundalini in Dreams” under the Topic menu to your left to find these articles as well as other related blogs in “Dreamwork and Christian Practice.”
    • Before going to bed, prayerfully request a dream that will guide you by asking for a certain dream to resolve a specific, stated issue related to the kundalini.

Read about others’ experiences.  I highly recommend a book by Philip St. Romain called Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality that describes not only his efforts to deal with the energy but also his attempts to integrate his understanding of this energy into Christian theology.  I have written a short online book digest for this book called Pioneering Christian Kundalini that can be found at The Intuitive-Connections Network website by clicking here.

Bringing Dreamwork into Religious Practice

Jacob's Dream

Jacob’s Dream. Image via Pinterest.

Just like prayer and meditation, working with dreams is a method of spiritual practice because dreams are spiritual in nature in that they speak for the soul.  Just by doing the exercise of recording and reflecting upon our dreams, we are connecting with the spiritual aspect of ourselves.

If we seriously practice a religion, the spiritual practice of dreamwork can be made part of our religious experience by 1) using prayer as part of our intentional dreaming and 2) by referring to the Bible or some other holy writing when we reflect upon the meaning of our dreams. 

Intentional Dreaming

Intentional dreaming is requesting a specific insight, solution or healing from a dream.  This is a very ancient practice that has often been connected to religion.  This practice can be done today by praying to Jesus, God or some other spiritual figure to provide guidance and help with our request before we go to bed at night.

Referring to the Bible or Other Inspired Writing

We can work with the Bible or other holy book to help us understand our dreams.  The Hawaiians have a practice of praying about an important dream to ask for guidance in interpreting the dream.  Then, they open the Bible to a random place and read the passage that presents itself.  They look for a correlation or some inspiration to come based on a combination of the dream and the passage.

Another way of tying dreams to the Bible is to look at the symbols in the dream.  Many symbols in important dreams are also symbols found in the Bible.  For example, I once dreamed of a chair in my living room that had caught fire and burned but did not burn up.  It reminded me of the Burning Bush in the Old Testament.  I reflected on the meaning of the Burning Bush in the Bible as a sign of God’s presence to Moses and wondered if this wasn’t telling me that something numinous was happening in my own life!  Sure enough, a strong and new energy soon came into my life which redirected my spiritual journey.

Still another way of understanding dreams as they relate to the Bible is to learn from any of the many biblical passages where holy people used dreams for inspiration and guidance.  The story of Joseph in the Old Testament and the story of Joseph, the husband of Mary, come to mind as people who relied on dreams to shape their lives.  We can observe how they worked with dreams and do as they did.  Try these practices and see how they enliven your dream and waking life!