The veil between the worlds is thinnest
When the heart remembers.
Susan Korsnick 2016
The veil between the worlds is thinnest
When the heart remembers.
Susan Korsnick 2016
We are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual beings and we are dreamers.
Light in the Darkness: How Dreams Illuminate Your Soul is the title of the workshop I led for almost 50 people last Friday. I was glad to see people of both sexes, all ages from pre-teen to elderly, & a wide variety of faiths represented for this is a natural experience that has no boundaries. Our dreams have messages meant to illuminate our souls & guide our lives if we are aware of our personal symbols & have the courage to act on what feels right.
My background includes over 30 years of dream journal writing & interpreting the dreams that resonate on a deeper level than ordinary dreams influenced by the day’s events. I believe the awake life informs my dreams & that my dream life informs my awake life- two aspects of my total being. Over the years, I’ve studied the work of Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, Sandra Ingerman & other shamanic practitioners, & Robert Moss. His particular viewpoint seems very much aligned with mine. Writers coming from a shamanic background or those with native influences understand the importance of dreams for they can impact the individual and even the entire community.
I spent part of the evening describing different types of dreams from daydreams that we have when we are totally awake to lucid dreaming (that in-between state where we are aware of dreaming) to night dreams that occur while our body is asleep. These “asleep dreams” were my focus.
Dreams are your personal oracles, coming to you in ways you can understand with imagery that means something special to you. Even if archetypal symbols such as angels, fairies, Mother Earth, Merlin, an eagle, a cave, or the Tree of Life appear, they are appearing because they have personal meaning in addition to their cultural symbolism. Messages are always for your greatest & highest good. Nightmares, although terrifying at the time, are unique opportunities to face our fears, reflect, explore, & grow.
For each of those examples, participants had dreams to share, dreams that demonstrated the importance of recalling the dream & opening to the dream’s message. I was very clear to state several times that only the dreamer can accurately interpret his or her dream. I can suggest strategies to improve dream interpretation but I cannot say what the dream means for the dreamer. Even dream dictionaries & books about symbols can only scratch the surface. You’ll know when an interpretation is correct by the way it makes you feel. This is an intuitive process.
The last segment of Light in the Darkness explored ways to increase dream recollection…
It’s not at all surprising that profound things happen when participants share their dreams & perform reenactments. I look forward to going through my own dream journals to discover even more about this fascinating phenomenon that defies scientific explanation. Yes, we can study REM sleep & brain waves but the mystical messages & imagery in dreams remains a mystery.
Although my sister & I are emotionally very close, it’s been years since we lived physically close. To bridge the gap, we decided to create a shared art journal, capturing where we were physically, mentally, & emotionally during the time the journal was in our possession. After a bit of thought, we agreed our experiences would serve us well if we focused our artwork on the theme of “Journeys”. What kind of journeys?
Instead of limiting our creative processes by defining the word “Journey”, we left it wide open to interpretation. Over the course of 2 years, this art journal went back and forth between us until its completion earlier this month. This shared artistic experience connected us in spirit even when space kept us apart.
I have to say it, I find traditional, “American” rituals & ceremonies inadequate at best. Regimented funerals, commercialized holidays, insipid baby showers, & meaningless bachelorette parties are just a few examples. At worst, the ritual is missing altogether, like Coming of Age ceremonies for our youth. If you say, “What about prom night or high school graduation?”, you’re proving the point. Prom night is about the dress & staying up past midnight while our graduation ceremonies couldn’t be more generic.
I’ve taken to designed more deeply meaningful ceremonies. This week, I created a Festival of the Dead for those who wanted to honor the deceased in a non-traditional way. I prepared an altar with a white candle symbolizing the living & a black candle symbolizing the dead, along with other symbolic items. Participants brought photos & objects of those they wished to recognize that night. We created a sacred space by reciting poetry, learning about death ceremonies from other cultures, & sharing personal stories about those who had passed.
People of various cultures believe the veil between the worlds is lifted at this time of year so the spirits can travel from the other world to this one. We made space for them by leaving an empty chair, welcome them among us, & taking a moment of silence to intuitively hear what messages they may bring. The departed can live in our hearts & minds though they are physically gone from this world.
One participant posed the question, “Are funerals meant for the dead or the living?” Both. When we honor the dead, we’re recognizing our relationship with that person or animal. Naturally, a sensitively-designed ceremony must be an extension of that relationship, meaningful to everyone involved– living or dead. Every ritual we perform should be unique. As you plan a special event to honor a rite of passage or a holiday that you celebrate, question what you do & why you do it. If the ceremony doesn’t resonate with you in a powerful way, change it or enlist the help of someone who can help you.
For those who have passed, rest in peace. For those still among the living, peace to you, too.
Can we be our authentic Selves all the time? This question came up with a friend as we discussed our spiritual journeys & how we try to live our truth in a world where religious intolerance leads to family rifts on a personal level & war on a global level. (Yes, we get into heavy discussions sometimes.) She said she’s at a point in her life where she is comfortable being who she is & will not compromise that for anyone else. I, ashamedly, have to admit that I’m not there yet. I was raised with the belief that you never talk about religion, politics, or money in social situations. If people agree, there’s no point to the discussion & if they disagree, there’s still no point. These conversations rarely lead to a change of heart. They more often lead to arguments, judgement, misunderstanding, & hostility.
Call me a chicken but I play it safe. I sense the climate in the room & make the decision whether or not to voice an opinion. Is that compromising my authentic Self? This can be a real struggle for someone in the minority– be it race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, or social status. Too often the majority squelches the individuality of those in the minority. We give up our authentic Selves so we can belong. But there’s the dilemma. We’re being accepted for who we aren’t.
So when do we take the chance? When do we say, “This is who I truly am?” Sometimes we make that decision & other times, someone forces our hand, making the decision for us. My boyfriend did that to me this weekend at a friend’s cookout. He told some of the guests about my spiritual practice before I felt comfortable doing so. I’m relieved to say they were very accepting & curious. As we talked, they saw the similarities between my beliefs & their own. What began as a tense moment for me, waiting for the hammer of criticism & judgement, became a great opportunity to be my Self & share my spiritual philosophy with them.
Another dear friend uses the term “universalism” to describe the commonalities that many religions & spiritual practices share, such as loving one another, honoring nature, & believing in something greater than ourselves. At the cookout, we celebrated those similarities & connected at a much deeper level than we had before.
So many interesting topics came up during those conversations that I want to share them with you over the next few weeks. In addition to my artwork, I’ll be writing about dream imagery, a need for community, soul loss, ritual, honoring life & death, energy work, & love. I hope that you’ll reflect on the questions below & share your thoughts with me.
1. Who is your authentic Self?
2. Have you been authentic in your interactions with others? Why or why not?
When should a widow start dating again? When should a person adopt a new pet after one dies? When exactly should we accept our loss & get on with life? Who gets to say? After all the loss that 2011 brought to my life, I’ve learned a few things…
1. Feel What You Feel When You Feel It— That means crying when you want or lying around in pajamas all day watching old movies. It means being sad one minute & happy the next. It may even mean feeling 2 or 3 emotions at once. It’s ok to feel what you feel.
2. Create Personalized Closure Rituals— Do what you think is appropriate to say good-bye & bring closure for your Self. There’s nothing worse that the generic Amazing Grace/Valley of the Shadow of Death service where the minister has nothing more to say about your loved one than “He was a good person.” Make the ritual as unique as the one you lost. Write a poem, create an altar, paint a picture, have a ceremony that only you attend, or go back to a special place you both shared & simply sit in the silence.
3. Know Your Loved One & Grief Are Unforgetable— I have to be honest… you won’t “get over it”… ever. You will come to terms with it, tucking it into a safe place in your heart so you can continue living but you won’t ever forget nor should you. It’s the memories that keep our loved ones alive in a meaningful way.
4. Do What You Need To Do To Go On Living— I lost Pixie on December 5th & adopted Freyja on Dec. 27th. She was a Bichon/Spaniel mix used in a puppy mill as a breeder for 3 or 4 years! She spent the last 3 months in a no-kill shelter (Bless these shelters & the people who support them!!!) Did I move on too quickly? Absolutely not. I have love to give & have the means to care for another dog. Besides, Paco & I needed rescued just as much as Freyja did. Life goes on.
Please consider adopting a dog or cat from your local rescue center. They desperately need love.
If you can’t, give of your time or money. In these economic times, the shelters need both!
I recently posted “What’s An Art Journal For?”, explaining… “my art journal helps me delve deeper into my soul, interpret my dreams, & chronicle my life. It’s far more intimate than a sketchbook.” Over the last few days, I’ve been using it as a way to heal & honor my beloved Shih Tzu, Pixie, who died at age 14 1/2. I should clarify, she didn’t “die”… I had her put to sleep because of tumors that would have made each day slightly worse than the day before. After all the countless wonderful memories & a lifetime of loving devotion, I couldn’t bear to see her suffer for even one day. She deserved much better than that & in a strange way, saying goodbye like this was my final gift to the girl who gave me unconditional love her entire life. Her last day was spent going for a walk, eating her favorite foods, & getting so many kisses from me that I thought I’d wear a bald spot on her beautiful little head. She was my girl & will always hold a special place in my heart.
I took a day off work to mourn her & feel sorry for myself. I cried a lot while working on a two-page memorial using acrylics, paper, her Obedience Training certificate (which is a joke since I was the one who ended up being trained!), & ink drawings inspired by the enormous number of photos I took over the years.
The Obedience Certificate that should have my name on it!!
There are many major events in our culture that have their own ritual from weddings to graduations yet there are some that have no ritual at all, a girl’s transition to womanhood with her first period or a boy’s transition to manhood (when exactly is that?). There is a growing movement to make moments more special by personalizing rituals that aren’t very meaningful anymore (the commercialization of holidays comes to mind) or creating new rituals where there isn’t one. I had to do that when Buddy, my dog of 13 years, died. I mentioned in my last post how it affected Pixie, my darling Shih Tzu. I don’t have to go into detail about how deeply it affected me, too.
To honor Buddy’s memory, give him a proper good-bye, & give myself closure, I created my own ritual that included a burial with his favorite stuffed animal, a eulogy where I mentioned many of the wonderful memories we shared, journal writing, & the creation of a portrait that was based on a silly photo of him & Pixie in a washtub. How he hated that experience! I could practically hear him protesting the humiliation of being photographed in a plastic tub. Totally embarrassing for a dog of his stature 🙂 The portrait wasn’t meant to be realistic; it was meant to capture his playful yet curmudgeonly spirit as well as Pixie’s sweetness. This artwork helped me heal & still makes me laugh each time I see it. Art is one of the great healers & a valuable component to meaningful ritual for me. How do you make rituals meaningful for yourself?
Dorothy told Auntie Em “There’s no place like home”, at the end of The Wizard of Oz. She experienced all sorts of scary, wondrous adventures before realizing that all she needed was in her own backyard. I had to experience the deaths of my grandparents to realize the same thing. Their home in central Pennsylvania was the place where I was warm, safe, & unconditionally loved. I could play with my dolls in the playhouse my grandfather built, daydream about life out west as I read Little House on the Prairie under the maple tree, and pretend to scuba dive with sharks in the small pool out back. Their loss caused a great black chasm to spread inside of me. Where would I go & what would I do without my special place?
I don’t remember saying it, but I must have asked that question out loud at my grandfather’s funeral because a relative responded, “You need to find another special place.” What?! How?! He made it sound so easy but I know it wouldn’t be for me (nor was it easy for him when his father died). Nonetheless, it’s true. Sometimes, if we are truly lucky, the people around us make a place special and sometimes we have to create it ourselves.
Like I mentioned in my last blog, my home is my sanctuary. It’s the warm place that I’ve created for myself & those I love. As I make it more “homey”, I find that it’s also inspirational. Subjects for my art are all around my house & garden. This is my new special place & this is some of the special art I’ve created here.
Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan