Emotional Care and Healing in Dreams

Dreams are very much about healing at all levels, spiritual, emotional and even physical, if we would only be aware of them and attend to their efforts.  If you are going through a rough transition that is taking a toll emotionally, dreams may come to let you know you are cared for and to let you know you are not yourself.  Here is an example:

Dream:  I am in a clinic and see my usual buoyant, optimistic, smiling self in a mirror.  Then I let myself feel my real feelings.  I am feeling unusually grim and pessimistic.A doctor comes up to me and uses a stethoscope to examine my heart.  I ask why he’s doing this.  He tells me I am not in my usual emotional state and he just wants to check me out.  I know he is right and intuitively feel in the dream he is mainly concerned about my emotional heart, not necessarily the physical one.  Then another doctor does the same, focusing more on the left side.

When I woke up I was touched that some dream physicians were taking care of me and my emotional situation.  It made me focus more on what I was feeling at the moment and not on the breezy, upbeat persona I was reflecting to the world.  I needed to look at the left side (the intuitive side) of my emotional heart.

Since I just finished teaching a class this past semester, I have time to rest and spend a little more time with myself and getting in touch with those feelings that are dragging me down. Maybe the dream doctors were tell me I needed to manifest their thoughtfulness and concern for myself.

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Why do We Value the Daydreams and not the Night Dreams?

Daydreams often provide more inspiration than night dreams. Why?

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote by Emerson has perhaps encouraged many people to pursue their dreams.  In America, it is quite the fad to do so, the idea being that pursuing one’s dream is what will give your life purpose and direction.  Often, to most Americans, this approach means pursuing some idea or ideal job that is a product of fantasy or a daydream.  This daydream is often fed by other desirable things that may come along with the perfect job such as a great salary, benefits and real power.  One imagines the perfect job, gets trained to prepare for that job, and then goes about looking for such a job.

However, few people actually pursue a job, not to mention a career, they have literally dreamed about at night. Whenever I tell people I have had seven major careers based on night dreams I have dreamed about at night  raises people’s highbrows, as if to say, “Who would ever do such a thing?”  Or, “That makes for a lot of change in life!” or “That’s not practical!”

It also raises the question of what we mean by following a dream.   On one hand, we are encouraged to follow daydreams but not the nitty-gritty night dreams that often contain great power.  This example seems to reflect the great value put on daydreams in this country but not on the night dreams.  I leave it to my readers to provide the deeper answers why this is so.

Praying from the Point of Pain

Learn to pray from the depths of yourself.

Praying from a place of genuine need draws a response from God.

It is said that the universe bends to where a genuine need exists and where a heartfelt request is made. I certainly do believe that prayer coming from real need is heard, and when prayers are not answered, one reason could be that God or the universe (whatever makes you feel more comfortable) just doesn’t perceive it as a real need, only an ego need on the part of the person praying.

What is Genuine Need?

The question arises then as to what constitutes genuine need, and how is it different from needing something just to soothe a bruised ego? It seems to me that genuine need arises out of significant suffering, the kind of suffering many people tend to actually deny, endure or cover up for a variety of reasons. This could be something horrendous like suffering sexual abuse or it could be something relatively less horrific like putting up with a chronic health condition.

Dreams and Pain

Dreams are very good at indicating where the genuine points of pain are located at the deep psychic level.

How Points of Pain are Symbolized in Dreams

These points of pain may be symbolized in the form of injured animals, a sick, dying or dead person, or some jarring situation such as a car accident. When these uncomfortable scenes are seen in dreams we tend to think of them as representing something outside of ourselves. In some cases, that may be true. However, usually, they represent an aspect of ourselves that is wounded, sick, dying, dead or being put in jeopardy.

When I have dreams like these, I immediately make it a point to pray for this aspect of myself that is suffering in such a way—even though I may not recognize it immediately since it may stand for something I may not yet be cognizant of in my waking life. I feel this is praying from the deepest and most genuine part of myself, surely opening a pathway to God and the universe for healing.

Our Role in Healing

Yoga as a way we can choose to heal.

Our role in healing can include invoking our own healing energies through dreamwork and visual meditation as well a practicing healthy exercise like yoga.

Whenever we speak of healing, we usually experience it as something that comes to us as a gift given.  For some it may be a gift of nature, of the universe, or a gift of God.  It is seen as something we don’t entirely have complete control over.  Be that as it may, beyond the obvious rules of eating right and getting exercise, there are certain things we can do on a spiritual and psychological level that promote healing.

We do have a part to play in making it all happen and there are varying points of view.  At one extreme we have people who assume healing is beyond them, especially on matters that medicine can’t adequately treat and will take a fatalistic stance such as “Well, I will either get well or I will die of this disease.”

And at the other end of the spectrum we have those who take on too much responsibility, thinking that if they don’t do this and do that, they will not be healed—acting like it is entirely up to them and not the doctors, God or the healing energy from elsewhere such as the universe, another a healing person or their own healing energies!.

Acknowledging Our Blocks to Health & Following through on Good Intentions

I think there is a happy ground in the middle which takes into account that we do have responsibility for our health yet knowing there is only so much we can do.  First, we can, as a minimum, try to acknowledge when we abuse our bodies by eating junk food, over eating or not getting enough exercise.  And secondly, we can also make the intention to do what we can to improve our health such as seeing a doctor, eating right and exercising.  If we are religious, this includes praying for health or asking for prayers.  It seems like such an easy thing to say but the truth is that prayer works in many amazing ways.

Tapping into Our Own Healing Energy

Also, another important way to promote healing is by tapping into our own healing energies, especially by doing dreamwork and/or visual meditation.  After many years of working with dreams to create better health, I have learned there is something like an inner healer which is constantly at work to let us know when we are healthy and when we are need of healing, be it psychological, physical or spiritual.  This inner healer may appear in dreams as a physician, a care giver or a nurse.  Once we’ve seen this inner healer in a dream, we can ask for dreams that will include this inner healer to show us the way to healing.  This archetype can become a guide for us, acting on our behalf.  It can empower us to heal ourselves and others as we become a conduit for the energy it represents.

Through visual meditation, such as by imagining sick cells being removed and healthy ones taking their place, we can also promote energy healing at the cellular level.

Working so proactively for our health at the dream level reaches far beyond the physical to the energy level, affecting and caring for cells and the ways they communicate with each.  What a profound role we can play in our own healing!

Sacred Moments in Dreams

Dreams can bring sacred moments that help us through difficult times.

What are some of your sacred moments that have sustained you?

We all need sustaining visions that will get us through the worst times and give us clues to the good things that are to come.  Ironically, it is often when we begin to go through difficult times, the veil is lifted from our eyes and we are given the grace, a “sacred moment” that gives us the strength to undergo any ordeal we must face.  I remember a woman telling me that she was very nervous before a surgery to remove a cancer.  As she prayed in the hospital bed, waiting to be taken to the operating room, she had a vision of light that came into the room and surrounded her.  It gave her great comfort, so she was able to undergo the surgery with great peace.

One way we can experience profound sacred moments is in dreams.  Almost everyone I’ve met has had some dream that is profoundly spiritual and sacred to the person who has had the dream.  They may dream of flying effortlessly or they may dream of Jesus coming to visit them.  They may dream they are healed of some shame or regret they once had.

My experience has been that the very special dreams we have are meant to prepare us either for a special mission, an ordeal like a surgery or a difficult transformation.  For example, a dying person may dream of someone special, a loved one who has already died, coming for them and possibly leading them somewhere.  The dream has a sacred quality about it and tends to literally help the dying person die.  The dream then is a sacred moment which is preparing the person for transitioning from the worldly plane to the spiritual plane.

All of us have had “sacred moments” in our lives, either in dreams or in lived experiences.  Some people have had visions and some have experienced a deep connection with God, nature or another person.  What are some of your sacred moments?  How have these moments helped you feel that life is worthwhile, even in the midst of the most difficult times?  If you are in a low spot in your life you might consider asking for a dream that will present you with a “sacred moment” to get you through the hard times.

Your Life Purpose (Ikigai) as Seen in Dreams

Dreams can help us find our life's purpose.

Ikigai: One’s Life Purpose

The Japanese have a word for one’s life purpose and that is ikigai.  It’s what makes you want to wake up in the morning.  It’s what motivates you to push through all sorts of obstacles. It’s your reason for living.

Many people aren’t sure what their true igikai or life purpose is, even though they may be in a rewarding job and enjoy a good family life.  This unsureness may be felt in a vague restlessness or dissatisfaction that has no specific cause.

The deepest callings of our souls sometimes remain hidden because the timing may not be right for us to know such information or we may not be prepared to receive such news.  Sometimes it takes a lifetime to uncover the deep callings.  Thomas Merton, a well-known monk and spiritual teacher suggested we may never know what our true vocation is in this life!  It may be revealed to us after we die.

Dreams Can Give us Clues to Our Ikigai

Dreams, which are messages from the soul, can give us hints and even outright statements as to what our life purpose is.  I remember when I graduated with my new Master’s Degree, I wanted to know how this degree would help me work toward my life’s purpose.  I then had a dream in which a voice said, “The purpose of your life is to teach people how to swim in the sea.”  Since I am not a strong swimmer, I knew that the dream did not literally mean for me to teach swimming.  However, since I just got my degree with emphasis in Religion & Philosophy, I thought the dream was giving me the green light to teach people how to swim in the sea of life.  My degree certainly prepared me for that.  I have found that after forty years of working, some of the most meaningful jobs have involved helping people “swim” in the sea of life by being a teacher, life coach and writer.

Other Ways Our Dreams Try to Communicate Our Life Purpose:
  • Leading us to places in dreamtime, often with a dream guide. If you find you are being led somewhere you don’t know, be sure to ask, “Who is leading me?”  The person, spiritual being or animal leading in the dream may give clues about where you are going.  For example, I had several dreams of Edgar Cayce leading me and pointing out the right direction to take.  Edgar Cayce taught a lot about holistic health, and got me specifically going in this direction—beyond the generalized “swimming in the sea.”
  • Opening a door in dreamtime. What is the kind of door and what is beyond the door?
  • Going somewhere on a train, plane or boat. What clues can the symbols and processes in the dream give?

 

 

Common Symbols for Kundalini in Dreams: Fire and Flame

Fire: A Symbol of Light and Purification

 In a series of blogs on kundalini energy as it appears in dreams, Kundalini can be symbolized by fire in dreams.I have written about snakes and volcanoes as being important symbols.  Fire and flames are also dramatic and powerful symbols for kundalini energy, and when they occur in dreams, it is hard to forget.   The dream is very wise to choose this symbol to convey the workings of kundalini energy because fire is similar to kundalini in that it burns away all that is harmful or not necessary and brings light to guide those touched by its energy.

Working with a Fire Dream

Dreams about things burning can have many meanings on the physical and spiritual level, but first and foremost one should look for a spiritual meaning because all dreams have a spiritual message at some level, and fire dreams are particularly connected to the work of the spirit.  The imagery of something burning calls to mind the biblical story of Moses and the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:1-17).  A burning object always attracts our attention and focuses our mind on a dramatic transformation that is taking place before us:  the transmutation of something physical into something else such as gas and ash, or in the case of the Burning Bush, the presence of a divine being because the expected transmutation wasn’t taking place.  Spirituality is about transformation and being in the presence of the divine.

As in dreams about snakes and volcanoes, one has to ask what is going one in one’s life so that fire and flame appear.  A fire dream may be merely an expression of one’s fears about a house catching fire because of fire hazards in the house.  However, if one is experiencing strong kundalini energy in one’s body, it may be giving the dreamer a chance to observe what this energy is doing and how it can be managed.

Dream: My Car is on Fire

I am with a friend and some other people. They have just come out of a store.  I invite them into my car since I can seat 6 people.  When I start the car, a little alert icon on the dashboard goes on and I yell for everyone to get out.  The car is on fire!  Everyone jumps out and is OK.  I want to use my cellphone to call 911 but my friend says not to.

This dream came about a year and a half before I experienced the onset of kundalini energy in my body.  A car can be a symbol for the body or for how we get around in life.  In any case, it was alerting me to the possibility that my life would be affected by a strong energy like fire.  It would cause me fear and concern but the dream is also telling me that I (and the many parts of myself represented by the others) would be OK.  My friend (who is a wise and knowledgeable person in waking life) tells me it is not important to call 911.  This is odd so it makes me think this dream is not predicting something physical but maybe a spiritual process that is meant to happen.  The burning car is a symbol of a transformative process that is OK.

 

The Challenge of Seeing the Many Aspects of Me

Look at each piece of the dream and see what it says about you. Fit it all together.

The Dream: All About You!

The German psychiatrist Fritz Perls is credited with developing the dreamwork practice of considering that everything in the dream is a part of oneself.  To be more specific, I tend to think every symbol, process and event in the dream is indicative of energies within the person and what is transpiring with those energies.  Either way, using this method to work with dreams can be challenging in that it asks the dreamer to “own” certain symbols, processes or events he or she would, in many cases, rather deny.

For example, if I dream I am in a room where an angry man is beating a weaker man, I may not want to admit that a part of me is capable of beating up another person, especially if I am a person who is uncomfortable showing any kind of anger.  Yet, this is what this dream method is asking us to do.  It can be heady stuff but the method will allow the dreamer to discover hidden aspects of him or herself and bring that to light, and perhaps even heal.  Using this method I may discover that I am capable of being angry enough to beat another person or I may find that a part of me is beating up on me!  This humbling realization is often what spiritual growth is all about.   We find that we are not perfect, and in that discovery develop compassion for not only other beings but ourselves also.  It’s as if each piece is part of whole and our job is too see how each piece fits into the whole, like doing a puzzle.

Next time you have a dream, write it down and consider that each symbol, process and event is part of you.  What energies are evoked?  What makes you feel uncomfortable?  What is the “saving grace” or helpful element in the dream?  The darkness and light within you will be there to discover, and the intelligent interacting of the two will be there for you to appreciate and give you wisdom.  It is a challenge that is well worth taking up in dreamwork as you take up the pieces and fit them together.

Dreamwork: Good for Self-Integration & Self-Transcendence

Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's dreams.

Go Within for Answers

John Welwood in his well-informed book Toward a Psychology of Awakening, notes that full human potential is realized when there is a combination of self-integration and self-transcendence.  Psychology has concerned itself with the former and spirituality with the latter. They are considered to be two entirely different areas of growth that are traditionally developed with different practice approaches.  For example, exposure therapy may be used in psychology to overcome fear and meditation is used in spiritual practice to move beyond the limitations of the waking mind.

On reading Welwood’s book, I am thinking that dreamwork may be a methodology which can be applied to both the integration of the self and the transcendence of self, even though these are two different areas for growth.  Dreamwork can be used to deal with psychological issues as well as spiritual ones, making it a particularly potent practice.  It’s not for nothing that Freud called dreams the Royal Road to the Unconscious.  Dreams can also access different energies and levels of consciousness both within each of us and also in the wider energy matrix that interconnects us all.

Dreamwork as a Methodology for Self-Integration

Dreamwork is well known for acquainting the dreamer with various hidden aspects of him or herself.  Just the mere dreamwork practice of considering all things in the dream to be representative of one’s own various energies allows the dreamer to notice and acknowledge things and behaviors previously unaware to the dreamer.  These newly discovered energies, once acknowledged, can be harnessed for a deeper understanding of life’s problems and offer more tools for living life.

Dreamwork as a Methodology for Self-Transcendence

A dream may be given or requested which can provide guidance or a solution, or offer a far greater vision that allows one to rise above the limitations of a binding mindset or a complicated situation.  The power of the dream provides new insights and even healing that change the game entirely.  A combination of both insight and healing totally changes one’s understanding of the body, psyche and spirit.   Also in dreamtime, one may encounter spiritual guides which lead a person on a journey of spiritual growth and deeper awareness.    One may actually develop a “working relationship” with these guides that can later reoccur during meditation or dreamtime.

The power of dreams is truly amazing but dreamwork is work requiring courage and consistency.  It is a practice that if done faithfully and diligently can help one to both self-integrate and self-transcend. Dreams can indeed answer many kinds of questions, spiritually and psychologically, to grow more fully human.

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.