Dreams Illuminate the Soul

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.

Dreams can…

  1. be little dreams that simply reflect your day’s experiences- books you’ve read, things that happened at work, or stories you saw on the evening news
  2. allow your soul (spirit) to travel across time or space
  3. connect you to the deceased, who are letting you know they are ok and still with you in some way or maybe they are trying to impart wisdom to shine a light on something you haven’t seen clearly
  4. inform decisions you need to make in your awake life or offer a creative solution to a problem
  5. connect you to spirit guides, power animals, or magic objects like flying carpets or hollow tree trunks that lead to other worlds
  6. reveal your deepest desires at soul level regarding your higher purpose, relationships, career concerns
  7. be premonitions of events in your life, those around you, or the greater world community

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…

  • journal writing
  • orally sharing dreams with others
  • dream reentry (a technique suggested bu Robert Moss)
  • dream reenactments (another Moss-inspired technique)

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.

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A Meditation Buffet

My early perception of meditation was that I had to sit still, be quiet, & clear the mind of all thoughts.  I tried.  I tried often over the years but each time, I got discouraged, believing that “I wasn’t doing it right.”  I’ve since redefined meditation for myself.  Meditation is about listening, taking the time to focus on my own well-being & need for a bit more tranquility in my life.  It doesn’t necessarily require sitting in silence on a cushion, although that method works well for many people.  Instead, it might be a method that incorporates chanting or walking as a way to focus the attention.

I recently offered an evening session called “The Meditation Buffet” for curious women open to exploring different meditative techniques.  Just like some of us recharge our mental/emotional batteries by being alone while others get energy from being in a group, we have different spiritual needs as well.  Some people need singing, dancing, & movement while others need contemplative, serene spiritual experiences.  It’s not surprising that we are different in the way we meditate, too.

The Meditation Buffet came out of conversations with friends & a few co-workers.  Most either had no meditative practice or if they did, it was infrequent.  Why?  Three statements frequently come up…

“I don’t have enough time.”

“I can’t sit still for that long.”

“I can’t clear my mind of thoughts.”

 I designed The Meditation Buffet to address those three concerns & offer possible solutions to busy women who may not have the time to explore these techniques in-depth.  (Like a quick taste of an unfamiliar food on a buffet table, a 15-minute introduction to a meditative technique is sufficient to determine whether or not it suits your personality & lifestyle.  Let’s face it, you know when something’s right & when it’s not if you let your intuition guide you.)

“I don’t have enough  time.” With full-time jobs, kids, errands, & other obligations, the time to care for our whole self- physical, mental, spiritual, & emotional- slips to the bottom of the list of priorities.  Everyone & everything else comes first.  Eventually, this catches up with us in the forms of anxiety, sleeplessness, & illness.  We can’t continue to give when we have nothing left to give.  Meditation gives us an opportunity to center ourselves & find peace among the chaos.  When I was a girl, I had a friend who came from a large family.  The only time she could study quietly was in the bathroom.  She’d lock the door then climb into the dry bathtub, shutting out the world with a shower curtain.  You might be laughing but for some people, that’s a possible solution for a bit of privacy.  So, before you say you don’t have time to meditate, get creative.  Think outside the box.  Maybe you need to think inside the bathtub!  This is the hardest excuse to overcome because it means making a commitment to yourself.  It means saying “I’m worth it” and following through regularly.

“I can’t sit still for that long.”  In the workshop, we tried a couple of techniques described in John Hudson’s book Meditation: Simple Steps to Peace, Well-Being, & Contentment  and a few that I learned from other sources, including a beautifully serene walking meditation I first practiced at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.  A participant in the group introduced the rest of us to Birds’ Nest Meditation, which required us to sit in nature, as if in a nest, & heighten our awareness of the world around us.  I found this grounded me & brought a sense of peace from being fully present in the moment.  I recommend Hudson’s book for it has “everyday techniques accessible to everyone” on topics such as postures, mantras, & visualizations.  It’s definitely worth reading if you are new to meditation or still searching for a method that works for you.

“I can’t clear my mind.”  That’s perfectly natural.  I’m not aware of anyone on the planet who is able to free their mind of every thought every time they meditate.  Sometimes, the best we can do is respectfully recognize that we have a lot on our minds & with loving kindness toward ourselves, let each thought drift away like a colorful sailboat on the river of our consciousness.  Acknowledge the thoughts & let them flow.  Do this over & over if you have to, breathing deeply each time you notice another thought trying to distract you from the process.  Do the best you can with this & let that be good enough.  You will improve with practice.

I’m far from perfect when it comes to meditating regularly.  I, too, use excuses when it “doesn’t suit me”; however, I fully admit that I feel out of alignment with my higher self when I neglect my need for solitude & peace.  I’m writing from a place of knowing.

After the Quest

I hesitate writing about my Vision Quest so soon after the experience, knowing that my initial response to it will resemble spaghetti sauce right after combining the ingredients– good but not nearly as good as it will be if I let it simmer for a while.  My view of my Vision Quest hasn’t gotten the richness, depth, or complexity it will have after it “simmers in me” for a few weeks or months, but I want to share it with you anyway, for these early realizations have merit of their own.

At the campsite, our spiritual guide prepared five of us for our quests by quoting Ralph Blum’s “Druid’s Vow”.

I honor your gods.

I drink at your well.

I bring an unprotected heart to our meeting place.

I hold no cherished outcome.

I will not navigate by withholding.

I am not subject to disappointment.

Intellectually, I got it– no expectations, no disappointment.  What is meant to be will be.  Spiritually, on the other hand, I was to find out that the message hadn’t made it into my heart.  (More on that later.)

Our guide suggested that we take a few things with us- a rattle, objects for an altar, writing materials, & art supplies.  I felt very uncomfortable taking a journal because I wanted to “turn up the volume” on my intuition without the critic in my consciousness interrupting.  She explained that we aren’t to analyze what we experience, merely record it so we don’t forget details that may be of importance to us later.  I questioned the wisdom of that for me, “Can I record without judgment?”  Eventually, I made peace with the idea.  She’s right.  There are so many subtle signs & messages in nature that I may want to jot them down so I can reflect on them later.  My journal & pen went into the backpack.

After what was a sleepless night for some of us, we rose to begin our Quests with a profoundly sublime purification ritual that connected us to one another, our inner selves, nature, & the benevolent spirits around us.  Following the ritual, I practically ran to my place in the meadow, eager to get the logistics of setting up the site over with so I could begin the spiritual aspect of the Quest.  Almost immediately, I heard something greater than myself correct me, “There is no separation of logistics & spirituality; it’s all part of the Quest.”  Chastised, I changed my attitude, walking into the meadow with humble reverence.

I created a sacred space by fastening prayer ties in the north, south, east, & west, invoking the spirits of the directions, then set up my tent & lay out an altar of objects that are deeply meaningful to me.  I raised my voice in prayer, “I’m vulnerable & open to accepting & acting on any message of love you send me for my greatest & highest good.”

There I sat on the mountainside overlooking trees, wildflowers, & the vast expanse of sky I needed to establish a serene sense of connection with all that is.  The nearby brook, babbling noisily over the rocks, was a comforting companion.   “I’m part of this & this is part of me”, I sighed, taking notice of the ground literally vibrating with ants, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, & other creatures whose entire world is this mountaintop.  “This is all that matters to them– being in this place at this time”, I thought.

While countless species of insects accompanied me both day & night, it was the grasshoppers who stood out from the rest.  At any given moment while I was awake, at least 6 were simply hanging out on my altar.  Sure, butterflies landing on my knee & ants crawling on my skirt are to be expected when I sit in a meadow,  but 6 or more grasshoppers sitting silently on an altar seem a bit out of the ordinary!  I got out my sketchpad & drew each one, noting how different they were.  No two looked alike.  Every creature is unique… it’s not a quality reserved just for the human race.

(Once home, I referenced Ted Andrews book Animal Speak to find out the symbolic meaning of grasshopper.  He wrote, “When grasshopper shows up, there is about to be a new leap forward…  Grasshopper can show up if we are not listening or if we are afraid to make the leap off our mound… Remember, a grasshopper always leaps up or forward.  It doesn’t leap backward… Trust your inner voice.“)

My Vision Quest had both peaks of joy & contentment & valleys of doubt & fear.  At times, I felt at one with all around me & other times I felt like a fraud for even attempting this highly spiritual experience that stretched me far beyond my comfort zone.

Remember what I wrote about having no expectations & not subjecting myself to disappointment?  I have to confess that I did both… I expected a spiritual epiphany in the form of a burning bush or some spiritual being hovering in blindingly white light before my eyes.  After all, I fasted, drove hours from home, & slept in the dark among the deer flies & mosquitoes… didn’t I deserve a spiritual epiphany?  When that didn’t happen, I was disappointed, accusing myself of being a bad Vision Quester.  Really?!  I’m going to beat myself up because I didn’t get a miracle?  That sounds ridiculous but that’s what happened.

I was human.

At that moment, I realized a purpose of my quest… to face my Shadow, the Perfectionist.  I didn’t get a lesson from an angel, Native American spirit guide, or even my power animal; instead, my teachers were the insects all around me, for they knew better than I to live with no expectations & hold no disappointments.  Simply be your authentic self.  That’s all that is asked of any of us.

I knew that… I just needed a reminder.

Shades of Green

The grey of a coming storm brings an electric sizzle to the air & an unrivaled brilliance to colors in my back garden, especially the greens.  Like a photographer arranging a neutral backdrop to enhance the colors in her subject, Mother Earth enhances the hues in nature by rolling grey clouds across the skyscape.

rainy day 1

As the most recent storm approaches, I stare out the window of my sunporch, marveling at the greens & laughing at my inability to name them all, despite growing up with the world-famous box of 64 Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back.  Let’s see, there was green-blue, blue-green, yellow-green, green-yellow, olive green, sea green, forest green (like that’s one color!!), & just plain “green”. 

rainy day 2

I run outside in the first fat raindrops, absorbing the countless greens of the entire garden at their most vibrant.   I get closer to my viburnum shrub, still countless shades of green on one plant.  Zooming in, closer still, I see countless greens in just one leaf.   

rainy day 3

Grey days are anything but dreary!     Grabbing my camera, I make a vain attempt to capture the many shades of green in my garden before the clouds shift & take some of the brilliance with them. One hot, summer day in the not too distant future, the attention-seeking sun will bleach many of the greens, turning them to dry browns.  Rather than lament the loss, I’ll cheerfully count the reds of berries & blossoms or the yellows of peppers & squash.  There’s always something wonderful to experience in the garden, every second of every day of the year.

 

What Makes a Perfect Day?

What makes an ordinary day more extraordinary?  What makes a typical Saturday perfect?  BALANCE.  Just the right mix of work & play, activity & inactivity, movement & stillness.

We woke to a brilliant sun suspended in a turquoise sky.  Instead of the usual rush, we took our time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast & an extra cup of coffee as the birds soared around the backyard, looking for their breakfast, too.  We agreed that we wanted to get our errands done as fast as possible so we could get back home & get outside.  That we did… in record time!

The garden was calling as it tends to do on a 70 degree spring day.  “Play with me!  Nurture me!, it beckoned.  I played in the dirt, weeding flower beds until my fingernails were full of dirt & my arms tingled from a slight sunburn.

Then, the lawnchair began calling as it tends to do after a few hours of yardwork.  “Sit with me.  Keep me company!”  How could I resist?  I grabbed a novel & a glass of wine, reading in the shade until the next voice called.

My dogs, dozing in the grass, grew restless as they tend to do after too much time lying about.  “Walk with us.  Pet us!”  I stretched lazily then rose to get their leashes.  We had a wonderful walk, enjoying the neighbor’s yards where daffodils & tulips of every color danced in the sunshine.

When we returned, my boyfriend was calling as he tends to do on a Saturday after too much time apart.  “Eat with me.  Spend time with me!”  We made a delicious stir-fry veggie dinner & sipped some more wine as the sun began to set on our perfect day.

There’s nothing better than a day spend doing what I love with those I love the most.

Spring Beginnings

Mourning doves coo from rooftops & robins happily chirp on bare branches, announcing the arrival of Spring.  “Welcome back, everyone!”, I say with a smile, always glad to see animals return to the area.

Smaller birds are gathering straw & twigs for the nests they are building in my 14-room bird “palace”.  Soon, baby birds will be heard calling out to their mothers, “Feed me!”  Last month, my boyfriend took down the birdhouse, cleaned out last year’s abandoned nests, replaced rotting wood, & raised the birdhouse back on its post to make it an inviting space for expectant moms.

Birdhouse

Look closely, the middle room on the upper level is already someone’s new home.

Bright greens, yellows, & purples replace the greys, browns, & whites of winter, brightening my mood as well as my yard.  After months of drab neutrals, pops of color dance before my eyes.

crocus1

crocus2

daffodils

I can’t help it; I’m excited!!  I want to clear away the dead plants that no longer feed or shelter wildlife.  I want to throw open the windows so the brisk breeze can deliver freshness & positive energy to my home.  And, I want to give myself a thorough “spring cleaning”, too.  For me, this means releasing thoughts, habits, & experiences that no longer serve the greatest & highest good.

What has been outgrown?

What should be nurtured?

If we tune in to nature & tune in to ourselves at the same time, we’ll find that what’s happening around us is happening in us as well.  New ideas flow like sap.  Dreams blossom into reality like crocuses rising from the decaying leaves.  Seeds planted in our lives mirror the seeds planted in the soil.  The interconnectedness of all things…

What Are Dreams?

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”  Marsha Norman

I’ve always been a vivid dreamer– having use of all of my senses & emotions in full color dreams that are so “real” that I now refer to my total experience in physical form as my “awake life” & my “dream life”.  Two parts of the whole– equally important to my well-being.

In my childhood & early teens, I relished going to the bookstore where I could wade through multiple dream “dictionaries” & be told the meaning of my imagery by some “expert”, as if a total stranger can define my personal symbolism.  Eventually, I found myself saying “No, this doesn’t sound right” more often than not.

Not knowing what else to do, I began keeping a dream journal by the bed so I could record my dreams as soon as I woke up, before the scenes became fuzzy or lost forever.  I highly recommend this practice, especially for people who say they don’t dream or they can’t remember their dreams.  It’s like anything else you want to get good at, the more you practice, the better you’ll become at recalling this part of your life.  Set the intention before you go to sleep & write down anything & everything you remember when you wake up, even if it’s just a sentence or two.

Dreams fall into three categories, judging from my experience & decades of recording dreams. 

  • There are dreams that are obviously inspired by what you did during the day.  That category can include people from your life, scenes from a tv show, or themes from a book you read.  These are rather basic & easy to identify.  For example, I recently had a dream about waiting for people at a theater the same day I purchased tickets to a local production of Peter Pan.
  • There are dreams that help you work through an issue.  They send messages to you in your sleep about ways to resolve an issue, fix a problem, or handle a challenge.  For example, I had a dream that I was in a prisoner of war camp, planning a way to escape.  I knew I had to keep my head down & act like the other prisoners so the guards wouldn’t get suspicious.  That way, my chances of escaping unharmed would be better.  I woke up thinking, “Got it.  Message received.”
  • There are other dreams that are full of creative, unusual, or magical elements that cause you to wake up wondering, “Where did that come from?  There’s no way my imagination could have made that up!”  These dreams are the most important because they speak to the part of you that belongs to the universal consciousness, the part of you that understands ancient imagery & archetypal symbolism.  These dreams challenge us to deeply reflect on core values, beliefs, & perception of ourselves in the grand scheme of things.  For example, I had a dream that the road I travel daily was lined with larger-than-life statues of unicorns.  Nestled in the woods, a gift shop seemed to glow, beckoning me to enter.  Inside, I saw all manners of unicorn statues, art, & jewelry.  The shop keeper said, “None of these are for you.  I have what you need in the back.  Wait here.”  When she returned, she held a necklace shaped like a woman.  When I took it in my hands, the woman was me… with a unicorn horn.  That resonates with me & requires reflection to fully understand.  For now, I just marvel at how my mind works when I’m asleep & supposedly inactive or resting.

I never found a good teacher or reference book for my personal study of dreams but I don’t need one.  The messages are just for me & only I can figure them out.

Nature-Inspired Wall Hangings Part 2

Here are the last 2 wall hangings in the series titled “Nature-Inspired Wall Hangings”.  I’m pretty excited because two of the pieces I showed in the November 28, 2012 post called Nature-Inspired Wall Hangings Part 1 are in happy homes.  One I gave as a gift & the other sold right away.  I love incorporating found objects & other tactile materials in my collages.  It’s cliche but great art has to come from the heart & speak to the heart.  Without triggering an emotional response in the viewer, can we even use the term “art”?

3 Twigs Wall Hanging

3 Twigs Wall Hanging has handmade paper, twine, copper wire, stone, pinecone, & wood details.

Hand and Spiral Wall Hanging

The Artist’s Hand is a symbol of creativity. It’s made of wood, hemp twine, handmade paper, acrylic paint, glass beads, & copper wire.

Take a look at my Art Gallery page, I’m interested in hearing what you think. 

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan

There is a Season

“To everything, there is a season.” 

(from The Byrds song  “Turn! Turn! Turn!”)

It’s the last day of 2012 so naturally, I feel a bit like Janus, the Roman god with two faces looking into the past & the future at the same time.  (A fitting god to inspire the name for the first month- “January”.)

Janus

A bust of Janus from Vatican City
(image from en.wikipedia.org)

“To everything, there is a season”, the Byrds sang in the 1960s.  So what is this season for?  The time between Winter Solstice (Dec. 21st) and the Spring Equinox (March 21st) is traditionally a time to retreat into the darkness, hibernating & being introspective while also celebrating the return of the light & anticipating new beginnings.

I dislike the term “New Year’s Resolution” because resolutions have a history of being broken as soon as they are made.  Instead, I ask, “What do I want in my life in 2013 & how can I make my vision a reality?”   For example, I want to deepen my connection to nature & provide food for those I love so organic gardening will continue to be a priority.  I’ll also provide for wildlife by planting more native species that shelter & nourish.  When food is hard to come by, bird feeders will remain full for my feathered friends.

Dinnertime

Back Yard Buffet

Bird Lunch

Just Hanging Out

I also want to continue creating artwork that reflects both my respect for the Earth & deepening spirituality.  Here is a sneak peek of the new series…

Root Project

“Roots” symbolizes grounding & connection. More about these pieces later.

Everything I want for 2013 is united under the banner of “LOVE”… love for those I want to share my life with, love for the earth & all sentient beings, love for creativity in all its forms, & even love for my Self.

May 2013 bless you with what you hold most dear.

Being Still

When I tell people that I’m grateful for being sick with the flu for a few days, they tend to give me confused looks & change the subject.  It’s really not that odd when you stop to consider it.

For 2 years, I’ve been getting the same message whether I journal, journey, meditate, or pray- “Be Still.”  I thought by meditating & praying I was being still.  Apparently not.

It wasn’t until I got sick that I understood the magnitude of those words & came to appreciate their profound meaning.  For days, I only did what was needed to survive- sleep, drink ginger ale, & try to eat a few crackers.  There was no artwork, no writing, no chores, no errands… not even any spiritual practices that I lovingly do daily.  My mind was completely still.  I didn’t even dream!  (That’s highly unusual for me as I can recall between 2-5 dreams per night on average.)

Stillness is so important for balance.  Think of your typical day; where is the stillness?

I believe the Divine speaks to us in a gentle whisper, at first.  However, if we ignore the message, it speaks more loudly to get our attention.  The flu was a way to get my attention.

For many of us, being still is a real challenge.  I’m asking you to give it a try, even for just 20 minutes.  Sit somewhere in total silence & listen.  Is there a message that you need to hear?