When Fear Rules the Day—and How Dreams of Animals Can Help

Look for your dream animals.

Animals in dreams are a source of insight.

One of the classic signs of fear showing up in our lives is the overriding attempt control it.  Our lives can literally get bent out of shape by fear as the flight or fight response kicks in—flight in our trying to run away from what we fear, fight in our desperate attempt to alleviate it, suppress it or shut it down completely.   The flight/fight response was a coping method that worked well for our ancestors in the jungle for whom the main objects of fear were usually readily identifiable animals larger or more deadly than themselves.

Nowadays, few of us have to contend with actual alligators and lions just to get food on the table—but that is not to say we don’t have things to fear.  The things we fear are now less tangible and as a result, often beyond our understanding and grasp, and therefore less easier to deal with, like a racial prejudice, unjust laws, people and cultures we are not familiar with, fake news that is difficult to verify, etc.  This makes it harder to determine if what we fear is really worth fearing!  The fear often cannot be tested immediately by just taking a quick look at the “beast” from a safe distance.

As a result, there are many fears that just hang in there or get bigger and more believable, and eventually rule our lives.  When others fear the same things, a community of fear builds up which reinforces one’s own fears and often it happens that the one who challenges those fears is victimized and shut up.  In this scenario, the individual and the community may never know they are dealing with fears based on an illusion, misinformation, etc.  What is worse, because very few people are willing to challenge their own fears or even address the need to have those fears, fear becomes a solid foundation for their lives, informing all of their decisions.

One of the benefits of dreamwork is that it shows you when fear has some validity and must be taken seriously, and when fears are nothing but a colony of ants—a huge nuisance that can be easily managed.  The way to tell is to look at the animals that appear in your dreams during a time of fear.  The bigger or more deadly the animal, the more genuinely threatening the fear.  And vice versa, the smaller, the less threatening.  It seems our dreams remember when animals provoked fear and use those symbols to instruct us today.

I am thinking of a recent dream I had at a time when I felt overwhelmed by a variety of fears.   It would have been really easy to fall into a desperate state of mind.  In the dream I walked into my closet and found many ants scurrying out of a drawer.  On waking, I reflected on what the ants meant and and how they reminded me of the many little fears I was experiencing, brought on by scam phone calls, a billing mistake by a company, hassles of straightening out paper work, etc., came to mind.  As soon as I saw the connection, I felt relief and knew my dreams were telling me to put my fears in perspective.  These fears were based on petty things and I should not take them so seriously.  I could handle them.

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Dreamwork: A Path to Explore Outside the Box

Dreamwork: Pathway Out of the Box

What’s the Box to You? Image via Pinterest

One of the best ways to get outside the box to discover new approaches and receive profound insights is to do dreamwork. There comes a time in our life when it becomes necessary to step beyond safe or confining boundaries because our world can no longer gives us the nurturing support we have come to expect. Sometimes our world, our box, often a fabrication of our making, can no longer give us the answers we need.

We grow up in a world that is our own box, at first sustained by family, friends and community, and then later by ourselves. We learn how to navigate through this world and work with its rules. As we become citizens of this box, and even experts and using it to our advantage, we strive to enjoy and run things in this world of our box, taking pride in what we can accomplish. But at some point, the box either gets too confining or we are kicked out by others who control the box, illness, old age or fate itself.  We no longer belong in the box.  This is when dreamwork can be very helpful because dreams can pierce the limitations of the box and birth us into a much larger reality. Usually this birthing is difficult at best. Dreams can help us by:

  • Providing visions of what life outside the box will look like.
  • Showing us the way to get out of the box if we are ready to leave it.
  • Showing us what our role and contributions can be to those still in the box, and those ready to leave the box.

I have often thought that this is one reason why dreams can be so bizarre. They provide symbols that want to pull us away from the usual ways we perceive things so that we can look at something from a different and fresh viewpoint. I think they want to us to see beyond the box.  For example, if I dream of a red eagle talking to me, I may try to imagine what the eagle is telling me beyond its words. How would the eagle perceive me? What is the eagle trying to tell me? Why is it red, and not the usual brown with a white head? Asking and learning from the eagle will provide a new perspective that is entirely out of the box of my conventional, waking mind. Heaven only knows what message will be given.

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

Jesus likening himself to a mother hen

Image via Pinterest.

The animal-human relationship has had a big influence in human psychological development. One way this can be seen is the deep attachment and communication that can happen between a pet owner and the pet. Even with animals in the wild, humans have long looked on magnificent and tiny creatures and wondered at their various gifts such as speed, flight, cunning or strength. It is no wonder that animals often appear in our dreams or intuitive insight. Perhaps we are either being given, or given insight, into that animal’s energy to meet a particular challenge of the moment. It is no wonder that ancient people worshiped animals. They wanted the particular energy associated with that animal to face the tasks ahead so they called upon the spirit of that animal to help them.

Even Jesus recognized the special energy that each animal exhibits. In Luke 13:34 he resonates with the deep caring nature of the mother hen as he compared himself to that humble bird who gathers who her brood under her wings. He could have compared himself to a grand animal of any sort like an eagle or a horse. Instead, he feels great compassion for his people and wants to protect them from the many dangers. Perhaps he is calling on this energy within himself for the tasks lying ahead for him.

Notice when an animal appears in your dreams or meditation. Ask yourself what energies you associate with that animal and then ask why you might need this energy at this time in your life. As a follow-through, try to act with the energy of that animal to meet the challenge facing you.

Learning to Trust Inner Wisdom: Often a Slow Process

Intuitive mind is a gift.  Rational mind is a servant.  Our society honors the servant.

Image via Pinterest

Two of the biggest stumbling blocks to intuitive learning are a reluctance to trust:

  1. information coming from our own inner resources and
  2. the process for acquiring that information.

There are many reasons for this which can range from our society’s distrust of information that cannot be quantified in a scientific manner to the prejudices of our education and upbringing which didn’t teach us to be intuitive or actually discouraged us from trying to be intuitive. For example, many of us were told to not take dreams seriously, or were told to ignore a gut feeling that was gnawing away at us. If we are uncertain or ignorant about our interior resources, we most certainly will be distrustful of processes that claim to nurture or access those resources.

It seems that people come to the awareness that they can trust their inner resources through some serendipitous event, a freely given grace in their lives. After such a significant event, people may begin to reflect upon the event because it has made such a significant impact in their lives. After a series of similar “inner knowings” coming at times when needed, people then begin to take their inner wisdom seriously. And only after all this, do they set about learning ways that can pro-actively access that inner wisdom. It is often a slow learning process.

I am reminded of a comment one of my friends said to me the other day. She had been nervous about getting a scan of her head, wondering what the outcome would be. Just before the procedure she had an unsolicited dream which told her things would be fine, no doubt giving her more confidence when she went for the test. That indeed turned out to be the case! She was excited and happy to tell me what happened. She said, “I remember you said something like this can happen. Now I know it can!” What was important to her was the discovery that her own inner wisdom could accurately tell her something she wanted to know. My telling her numerous times before did not make the initial difference. It was her own discovery that opened up new doors to personal awareness. What I told her was just another confirmation of the validity of her ability. This illustrates the importance of being open to challenging experiences, as she is, especially when it comes to developing a trust in our own inner wisdom. Now that she knew she had the inner resources, I reminded her she could access this information in a pro-active way (Dream Incubation) by requesting dreams that would answer specific questions to future concerns she might have. By the look on her face, I suspected she had some natural doubts about this happening but I have no doubt that eventually she will come to trust the process if she thinks to ask for a dream.

Is Your Meditation Working for You?

There are all sorts of meditations out there that can be used for a variety of purposes. Each teacher of meditation seems to have one that he or she prefers, usually because that form of meditation has worked well for that person and a number or his or her students.

However, if you have tried to learn a form of meditation and have become frustrated because, after due practice, you feel it isn’t doing anything for you, don’t give up on meditation. Just try other forms of meditation!

Ask Yourself What You Want from Meditation

Are you looking to relax, lower blood pressure, or are you looking for insight or deeper spiritual experience? Some forms of meditation can do all of the above but usually each meditation is particularly good at bringing a specific outcome, especially if practiced with due diligence. Here are some meditations I use which work for me for the purposes indicated.

  1. To relax and perhaps lower blood pressure and heart rate: On a quick deep inhalation from the solar plexus, count three and on the exhalation count seven, letting the breath out slowly. Or you may trying counting two on the inhalation and four on the exhalation—just make sure the exhalation is at least twice as long as the inhalation. This will quickly give you feeling of becoming more relaxed. After a minute of doing it, you may fall asleep! This is a good practice to do for about a minute before doing another form of mediation that is better suited for something else.
  2. To gain intuitive insight: After doing a relaxing meditation such as the one above, tell yourself that you would like to receive insight about a specific and genuine concern you have , either for yourself or someone else. Follow an inspirational meditation such as the Inspired Heart™ Meditation developed by Henry Reed, Ph.D., which includes the following:
    a. Initially just observing the breath, the inflows and the outflows.
    b. Then give thanks on the inflow for the breath that is coming to you like a gift, an inspiration!
    c. After a few moments, imagine letting go of any negative energy on the outflow.
    d. For a few minutes sit observing the breath, saying thanks on the inhalation and letting go on the exhalation.
    e. Then watch of any form of insight to come: images, thoughts, sounds, impressions, feelings, physical sensations. These will be pertinent and provide inspiration to helping with the concern brought to the meditation.
  3. For a deeper experience of God: Try doing a form of centering meditation. Basically this involves sitting comfortably while meditating on a meaningful word such as Spirit or Jesus. One repeats the word when one finds one’s thoughts are wondering. What may result is something like this: you “see” your thoughts passing by like boats on a river. And below you sense something like an ocean of profound peace.

What It Means to Commit to Dreamwork

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

Recording Dreams

Dreamwork is the practice of regularly recording and reflecting on one’s dream in a conscious and applied manner with the intention to learn from the wisdom of dreams. It is not an easy task. In fact, it is probably one of the most challenging projects a person could take on, and yet, possibly one of the most rewarding.

Freud said dreams were “the royal road to the Unconscious.” Connecting to dreams is a direct method to connect to the Unconscious, the deepest part of you. So if you want to really get to know yourself through and through, doing dreamwork is one of the best ways to do it.

By committing to dreamwork, you are giving permission to the Unconscious to inform your waking life, bringing new and often challenging insights into a consciousness that is often protected from this greater reality by a tough Ego that wants to be safe, secure and in control. Often, the interests of Ego and the interests of Unconscious are at odds. This means:

  • You may experience conflicting values in situations where your ego has learned to adapt, appease, turn a blind eye or, conversely, be overly critical and your Unconscious is suggesting a bolder, risky or more loving response.
  • You may be presented with information about a situation you would rather not know. Dreams often can see the bigger picture and give information you do not pick up in waking consciousness or they may portend events in the future that may be hard to accept.
  • Dreams may show you how powerful you can be if you forgo your fears and act on your dreams. Dreams may show you doing things in dreamtime you are frightened to do in your waking life—but in dreamtime accomplish with ease, grace and sometimes with the help of angelic beings. This is why the phrase “If you can dream it, you can do it” is so true. It’s like the holographic prototype model has already been tested in dreamtime, proving to you it can work.

By committing to dreamwork, then, you are committing yourself to be open to another level of awareness that calls you to move beyond the constraints of Ego limitations and into a world of limitless possibilities. What can be more exciting than that?

Building Self-Respect through Dreamwork and Intuitive Meditation

What do I rely on to get respect?

Where Does Self-Respect Come From?

5 Signs You’re Not Respecting Yourself by Vironika Tugaleva  is a good article about the negative behaviors that can pull us down, indicating that our self-esteem is plummeting. If these behaviors become habitual patterns they can be very self-destructive and undermine our relationships with other people.

Usually these behaviors manifest because, for any number of reasons, we are not in touch with our true self, and so don’t respect who we are.  Dreamwork and accessing intuitive insight are great tools that can counteract any tendency to disrespect ourselves because the on-going practice of these exercises can lead to a healthy awareness of who we truly and uniquely are at the deepest emotional and spiritual levels. These exercises tap us into the root of our being and nourish us with information that gives the bigger picture, the grander vision and the substance of things. They can also give us specific answers to problems and concerns we may have. Instead of being buffeted around by the questionable and often enslaving pressures and opinions of those around us, we are fed by healing truths that are custom made for each of us in a way that meets the problem at hand while preserving our innate goodness and integrity.  The end result is that we can behave in a manner that is worthy of respect, both from others and from ourselves!

Example: When I start to feel jealous of someone’s life, thinking it is better than mine, I can ask for a dream will give me guidance on how I can get more out of my own life, being very specific in the questioning to indicate what makes me jealous of someone else and what I might need to fulfill my own life. Asking for a dream to help resolve an issue is called incubating a dream (Ask and You Shall Receive: Incubating a Dream), and it can become one way to work through an issue.

The same can be done by an intuitive meditation such as the Inspired Heart™ Meditation. Prior to doing the meditation I can ask for insight to come. During the meditation I observe the breath and quiet the mind. I then make a heart connection, and receive the insight that comes.

No matter if I work with a dream or in a meditation, the occasion may become a turning point in my life that encourages me to face my feelings, and work towards resolving my issues based on information I have received from a profound inner source and not someone’s opinion or outside pressure. With regular practice I will find that such empowerment will lead to a healthy self-respect. I will come to experience that I am a Child of God, fed and cared for by divine sources, and placed on this earth for an important purpose that only I can serve.  What better basis for self-respect can there be?

Ask and You Shall Receive: Incubating a Dream

Relief des Sitzenden Asklepeos

Relief from an Asclepion Temple

Incubating a dream is all about asking for a dream that will address a specific issue by bringing needed information, prescriptive advice or healing resolution to the concern. Instead of just hoping you will get an inspiring or helpful dream, you proactively intend that what you need will come to you. It may come in the form of metaphor or story or a direct answer that is easily understandable. Early historical references to this kind of dream can be seen in the dream healing practices of the asclepions of ancient Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. These temples to the healing god Asclepius were forerunners of our modern hospitals in that people went there to eat healthy food, exercise and be treated for diseases and conditions diagnosed through dreams.

Henry Reed, Ph.D., of the Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies developed a detailed, methodically and scientifically researched explanation for incubating dreams which can be found at: http://www.henryreed.com/incubation.pdf.  Please check it out for an in-depth understanding of incubating a dream.

Basic Instructions for Incubating a Dream

A shorter version of the dream incubation instructions would include doing the following:

  • On the evening before you want to have the dream, carefully think about the issue or concern for which you want inspiration or resolution.  The more energy and thought you put into this helps with the outcome you will get.  It should be something that is of genuine concern either to you or somebody else.
  • You may want to light a candle or do a little ritual to add significance to the occasion.
  • Write down the issue and the question. Pose a question that is as specific as possible in getting the information or assistance you want.

Example of Concern:

I haven’t had an eye exam in a long time. I am worried because my eyes aren’t quite as sharp as they were before. Do I have an eye problem? I hope I’m not going blind. (Be aware of your feelings abou the issue such as fear.  This will add a sense of importance and intensity which, based on my experience, helps for a better outcome.)

  • You may want to write down the question and put it under your pillow.
  • Just before you drop off to sleep tell yourself again (or pray if that is normal for you) that you want a dream which will give insight, an answer or a resolution to your question.
  • Some people have more than one dream during any given night.  Take note of the very first dream you get.  That is the dream that is the response to your request.
  • Before moving and while still in bed, review the dream sequence and give the dream a title. Then note every image, object, person, sound, etc. in the dream.
  • On rising or while still in bed, write down the dream in detail in the present tense and give the dream a title.

Example of Dream:

House with Dirty Windows

I am walking around my yard looking at my house. I am pleased to see that it is in pretty good shape. There are no major problems. I do notice, however, the panes in the windows have a film on them. I take a closer look and see that the glass itself is OK. It has not corroded or been scratched. The windows just need cleaning.

  •  Reflect on the dream in general by making associations. What do the images in the dream remind me of in my life?  When I see the house in my dream, it reminds of my body.  For the most part, it’s in good shape, but the windows need cleaning.
  • Reflect on each association:  What do the dirty windows remind me of?  My eyes!  Windows let light into the house just like my eyes let light into my brain.  My dream indicates there is a problem but it can be fixed. Since the windows are basically OK, my eyes are probably also OK. Maybe my eyes just need “cleaning.”  Maybe I’m getting cataracts and need to have them removed.
  • Act on the dream.  Go check the windows of my house.  Maybe they are dirty!  Dreams have a way of making comments at various levels of meaning.  Go see a doctor about my eyes with the confident feeling that whatever my issue is, it can be fixed. Most likely my eyes are basically OK.

Remember that any advice you get in dreams is not a substitute for seeing a professional like a doctor, mechanic, lawyer, etc! With serious issues, it helps to get both inner advice and advice from experts!  You will want to touch all the bases and go with what works for you.

A Blog Tour: On Intuitive Understanding

Fran Kramer, Educator

Fran Kramer

About two weeks ago a long-time friend, Gwen Plano, invited me to join her on a Blog Tour. I thought it would be an interesting way for us to tell about our books and encourage others to do the same. Gwen has just published what I would call a spiritual memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love. I suggest you visit her blog and check out this profoundly moving book.

For the Blog Tour I was asked to answer four questions, which for me were ones I often address when people ask me about my books.

The Four Questions:

1) What Am I Working On? I am currently writing the sequel to a book published last year called Dead Men Do Tell Tales, a teen mystery novel that pits the intuitive and informed dreamwork talents of a teenager, Ashlynn Acosta, against the traditional gumshoe methods of her detective father. This book’s working title is Too Much of a Good Thing, and has our teenage sleuth entering her first romance amid the throes of a complex theft and murder brought on by hoarding. Her single dad is in the throes of a first romance since his wife passed away several years before. Again, father and daughter find they have much in common as they each must trust intuition in their own ways to navigate the shoals of romance and crime.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? My mystery stories are different from most in that the protagonist uses tried and true dreamwork and intuitive meditation methods learned from a dream mentor to help solve a crime. As a result the reader gets a thrilling, fast paced mystery with the added benefit of learning about developing inner skills. A Reader’s Guide in the back gives detailed explanations of the how-to’s.

A couple of reviewers have called my book something like “a New Age Nancy Drew,” a good teen mystery with the added enticements appealing to the current fascination with dreams and deeper intuitive understanding.

3) How does my writing process work? I usually resist sitting down to write but when I do, the floodgates open and I just let it flow. I often can’t type fast enough as the ideas start gushing. Eventually I reach a block and then take a break. New ideas emerge when resting, meditating or driving.

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I have a message that I am passionate about: how to access inner wisdom through dreams and meditation. I write all sorts of things for different age groups, based on their various needs for different forms of intuitive insight. Usually, I find it very easy to write because I write about things that energize me such as creative problem solving through dreamwork and the creative process itself.

It is my pleasure to introduce two very interesting and accomplished women who will continue the Blog Tour:

Diane Brandon

Diane Brandon

Diane Brandon has been an Integrative Intuitive Counselor, Intuition Expert and Teacher, Corporate Consultant, Author, and Speaker since 1992. She brings other modalities into her work, including Dream Interpretation, Individualized Guided Meditation, Regression, Natural Process Healing, and Customized Exercises and Affirmations.

She’s the author of Intuition for Beginners – Easy Ways to Awaken Your Natural Abilities and Invisible Blueprints (one of only two books on intuition that Ananda Village, based upon the precepts of Yogananda recommends), as well as several articles, and a contributing author to The Long Way Around – How 34 Women Found the Lives They Love and Speaking Out. Her next book, Dream Interpretation for Beginners, will be published in Winter 2015. Diane was the host of “Naturally Vibrant Living” on Web Talk Radio and Blog Talk Radio and “Vibrantly Green with Diane Brandon” on Ecology.com. She also has Meditation CDs available, including “A Journey Within Meditation,“ “Natural Process Healing,” and “Brainstorm in the Boardroom with Great Leaders,” as well as exercises for intuitive development.

Diane has appeared extensively on radio shows throughout the country, having been interviewed on dreams and intuition.

Her two websites are www.dianebrandon.com and www.dianebrandon.net. She may be contacted at diane@dianebrandon.com.

Jean Raffa

Jean Raffa

Dr. Jean Raffa is an author, speaker, and leader of workshops, dream groups, and study groups. Her job history includes teacher, television producer, college professor, and instructor at the Disney Institute in Orlando and The Jung Center in Winter Park, FL. She is the author of four books, a workbook, a chapter in a college text, numerous articles in professional journals, and a series of meditations and short stories for Augsburg Fortress Publisher.

Her newest book, Healing the Sacred Divide: Making Peace with Ourselves, Each Other, and the World was launched by Larson Publications, Inc. at the New York Book Fair in June of 2012. In 2013 it won the Wilbur Award, which is given by the Religion Communicators Council for excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and for encouraging understanding among faith groups on a national level.

Jean is also the author of The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth, and Dream Theatres of the Soul: Empowering the Feminine Through Jungian Dream Work.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks

Dr. Raffa’s websites are http://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/ and www.jeanraffa.com.

Intuition Helps Us Plumb the Depths of Spiritual Paradox

Both/and Instead of Either Or

Intuition Brings Light to a Limiting Either/Or Situation

Many of the great spiritual truths are couched in a paradoxical conundrum. They are like Zen koans which can drive us crazy if we resort to rational thinking alone to understand them. For example there is the great question, “Are we saved by faith or by good works?” Is it God alone who saves us or do we have to do our share? This debate has gone on for centuries and most people view this as an either/or choice of rational thinking rather than the both/and perspective of intuitive insight.

To Take Either Side is to Miss the Mark

If we take the view that God alone saves and our part doesn’t mean much, we miss the point of the Deuteronomy 18:13 which enjoins, “You shall be perfect with the LORD your God,” and Matthew 5:48 which commands “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We open ourselves up to childish, narcissist thinking which entails the rules don’t apply to me so I don’t have to follow them. God becomes the big all-powerful parent who we can blame when things go wrong instead of owning the blame and power that rightly belongs to each of us as children of God made in the image of God. We humans have a tendency to blame God or the devil when we refuse to acknowledge our own power or responsibility to fix things. We need to grow up.

If we take the view that it is by our good works we are saved, as many good church-going people of all creeds do, then we open ourselves up to “do-goodism” that only has selfish benefits, we become prey to scrupulous thinking that doesn’t allow for spontaneous and genuine decision-making, and we begin to think we are better than other people because we do good. We need to be reborn as innocent children who don’t know the rules of right and wrong, who can’t read the sign that says “Don’t Walk on the Grass” and who really don’t care, knowing only they are loved by devoted and protecting parents.

The Center Point Holds the Power and the Tension

Real power lies at the center point of this continuum. I must act as if it all depends on me with the goal of not being perfect—because that is impossible and who is to say what perfection is—but with the goal of trying most perfectly to meet the needs of that person or situation as a responsible adult would do. It is a 100% effort full of humility and sincerity, with no game playing that seeks to “win,” unless it is a “win/win” for all. On the other hand, I must 100% let go of my attachments to my efforts. I must leave it all to God, trusting that it all depends on divine power. This is no easy task. It is a test to live so faithfully in paradoxical mystery; however, to act any less demeans our human dignity.

Lao Tzu: The Old Child

Intuition tells us these two truths must be held together. We have to be old and young at the same time like the ancient sage of China, Lao Tzu whose name means Old Child. It takes a lifetime of growing up and growing down to reach this level of understanding.