Embodied Cognition: The enlivened Dream

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Not too long ago I was reading an article in the Jan/Feb 2011 Scientific American Mind Magazine. The subject was how body movements and fleeting sensations affect our thinking. This is called “Embodied Cognition.” It reminded me how when I used to give seminars and workshops in the 70’s and 80’s I used to always wear a light colored pastel sweater with audiences that I thought might be resistant, or even hostile to my message. My own research, though narrow, seemed to reinforce the calming and trust inducing effect this had on the audience. Mr. Rogers and his blue cardigan seemed to have it right.

In the article, researchers at Yale University found that rough textures in the environment tend to make social interactions go roughly and that while touching hard/cold objects in the environment would affect the perception of rigidity. The article implied that drinking something warm on a first meeting between people would increase the feeling of warmth toward each other vs. the drinking of something cold.

Physicality has always played an important role on our perceptions and our learning. Educators have known for years that children learn their letters and words easier when they use large arm movements to ‘draw’ the letter, or word in the air.

Using “manipulatives” while learning math principles has also proven effective in elementary learning situations. Adults build models of chemical reactions to extend their learning and to enhance the discovery process.

We also know that simulating an action while reading a story increases the comprehension of that story. This concept is one of the generating principles behind the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy and Active Imagining, both of which I’ve mentioned in earlier Blogs. Mentally simulating body movements has been a technique to help embody a routine in gymnastics or on the field of various sporting activities. When I was in community theater the director would have us go through all our movements mentally before the play so as to help build the action into the body’s memory.

Re-embodying a dream after you have awakened by selecting a prominent image from the dream and bringing it back into the imagination while quietly meditating can allow one to interact with the image and gain greater insight as to why it has visited the dream.

The embodied cognition effect also shows up when you journal a dream. The mere act of writing a dream down immediately after waking stimulates and reinforces the recall of that dream and in many cases the recall of many subsequent dreams.

Soul Healing

 

 

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Tarot card, The Sun– The archetype of the Child, Rider-Waite, P.Smith 1909

 

We get so involved in survival we often leave our soul behind and the everyday battering we are subjected to can bury it ever deeper into a protective layer so that we lose sight of who we once were. Soul recovery and healing is probably the single most important task you’ll ever undertake in this life because without a healthy soul that difference that you’re so desperate to make and experience cannot actualize.

There are many soul healers in the world, but there’s a soul healing technique I learned from a book written by Robert Moss* that brought me back to an earlier dream I had titled “The Blue Fresco”.

In that dream a woman floating above the ground invited me to leave the world I was in and to travel down a path that lead into the distant hills (was I going forward or backward in time?). Angels climbed up and down a staircase to and from the sky while children ran up a grassy hill. This dream has afforded many interesting looks into my inner world. I offer it here in hopes that you will be able to use it for your self.

Moss suggested that I enter a meditation where I re-envision the dream, giving it life once again and entering it with the intention of getting answered two important questions: “What do you want when you reenter the dream?” To which I answered, “What’s down the road?” The second question was, “What do I want to find there?”

What I wanted to find was the “powerful child”, the once competent and confident child, and its whole and undamaged soul. As suggested I also put on a shaman’s drum CD and focusing on my breath I counted four breaths in, hold, and four out and doing this until my body rested and my mind began to quiet.

Re-envisioning the dream I began to talk to the woman in blue, who clearly was my mother. She invited me to walk with her down the path and into the hills where I once again saw the story of my life, and all those events where I had felt loss and defeat. “You chose your meanings long before you ever experienced them and thus limited your self, Robert.” She said. She then encouraged me to shift their meaning so as to see another side of their reality.

As I did this, each event began to transform into something new, betrayal turned to love, abandonment either disappeared altogether, or became the prequel to an embrace. I began to see that every interpretation could have yet another hiding behind it and even though I once had chosen one meaning, I could as easily choose another.

This would become easier, I thought, if I were to shift the context of my life from “me” centered to “us” centered–from I to thou.

Further back into the hills I found a young boy sitting with a drum quietly tapping out his rhythm.

As I approached, this toe-headed boy turned toward me and smiled then rose from the grass and crawled into the lap of a large mama bear and nuzzled his head under her chin. Wrapped in her embrace, warm, and secure he was loved. He was in the power of the mama, the power of the bear. Everything began to fog and I found myself in the embrace of the bear. I had become the boy.

Soon I found myself running beside Onoma the she wolf, with my breath frosting like steam as we panted through the snow-covered forest. Suddenly I was lifted and rose above the trees as the she wolf looked up grinning at me. I twirled and spun with my arms outstretched like a da Vinci Vitruvius and flew higher while racing headlong through a tunnel of lightly falling snow then reached for a star that was quietly waiting at the tunnels end. With outstretched arm I grasped for it and pulled it in to me, this light, with its warmth, and its power held close and finally mine.

The drum, its rhythm, my rhythm, my song, my dance, the beat of my soul, pounded out every step to show me the way–the way back home. My soul was in the trees, the bear, the mother, the wolf, and the light that was mine to claim once again.

Once again on the ground I looked down and to my right and there was the boy looking up at me with a worried look on his clear, bright face.

“Where’ve you been?” He said as he took my hand and we strolled across the mudflats of his world. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too”, I said.

“You’re always welcome you know.” He said encouragingly.

“I know. Can I come any time?”

“Yeah! Any time.”

***

Many of you who have been reading my Blog or website will recognize the meditation as a form of Active Imagining, or Dream Tending. I offer it here as another means for lucidly reentering a dream for the purpose of not only understanding the message of a dream, but to also heal the soul and re-enliven the child who has never left any of us–to see the world through the visions of childhood.

“The appearance of things change according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.”

–Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese Poet

For this article I have used the image of the Tarot card of the Sun** for it is representative of the unification of opposites through the Mother and the Father where the conscious and unconscious unite to form a self-conscious being, that is a being fully aware of itself i.e. the Child.

Psychologically, in this meditation the man also unites with the boy and together they become more than their sum. It is this unity that helps to heal the soul and recapture its power.

Actually all the major and minor arcana of the Tarot can represent the unification of opposites, thus bringing forth psychological wholeness.

Animals whether they show up in dreams or in meditation make statements about our own vitality. Often they are messengers from the deepest part of ourselves. The Greeks, according to Robert Moss, considered the sender of dreams the “Mother of Animals”. The condition of these animals often reflects your condition in your waking life.

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* Moss, Robert, Dreaming the Soul Back Home, Ch 5 “The Royal Road to Soul Recovery”, Pg. 99
** I use the Tarot to illustrate psychological principles not as a means for divination, though I do believe that they can be used as images for the process of Active Imagining.