Be gentle with a dream

 

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After a dream is caught and you wander through its mysteries, be gentle with it for it is most fragile.

Be careful as you tread the hidden forests of your dreams. They are the unprotected essence of who and what we are. They are the messengers of our souls and our deeper selves. They harbor all our worries and fears, dislikes and rejected aspects, our hopes and our desires laid bare. They are born of the irrational, the imaginal, and the intuitive– a world of being as real and as informative as the rational world of science.

Both the outer mask that we present to the world and the mask turned inward so that we don’t look too deeply at the mysterious inner self are stripped away during our sleep allowing us to see our most beautiful face and darkest shadows. Through our dreams we get a glimpse of what God sees in each and every one of us without judgment or condemnation. Dreams are a grace unearned and a gift to those who will learn to accept them.

Treat them with care, respect, and compassion for they reveal the best of us and the worst of us. They represent our guide through life and the equilibrium and balance that all living creatures need to survive what is often a chaotic world. Our dreams are our inner savior.

They reveal a truth about our emotional state of mind, physical, and psychological health and our sense of the spiritual. They are our deepest connection with every thing, each other and with God or the universal spirit.

They create a nightly map to the experience of being human and if read properly can guide us to worlds not dreamed of through the conscious mind.

And they do all this uniquely for the dreamer who has them. Interpreters can hold our hands briefly and point to the way of the psyche but the individual needs to walk this path alone, it is about their story and life narrative and only they can know their true meaning.

 

Where did the soul go?

 

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Basically I think all humans are children; whether healthy, hurt, or abused, playful or withdrawn, happy or sad, expressive or withdrawn a part of us never grows up. We learn to put on masks so as to look appropriate and acceptable because to not do so runs the risk of rejection. We learn to say, “I don’t care” when we really do. We learn to hide any emotion that might result in a challenge to our survival. And it’s not just physical survival we care about but our psychological, emotional and ego survival as well.

We come into this world with a number of personalities some of which are heightened and some of which are squashed. The society of children and the parents of children who have their own inner child squashed and compromised inadvertently pass on their hurts and limits until eventually very little of the soul that came into the world is reflected in the being that is enlivened by it.

There comes a time that if we express the free spirit of our childhood at all it’s only through the overindulgence of drugs, alcohol, Halloween dress-up, or singing in the shower.

Perhaps it’s time to break out of the box we’ve built and trapped ourselves in. It’s safe, yes, but safe from what? Life? All too often we are the enemy we are hiding from. We are the fox in our own henhouse.

What then? How can we protect ourselves from ourselves?

But I don’t think we came here to be safe and well protected. We came here to run, jump, play in the mud, finger paint, sing, act crazy, love and be loved. But it’s so hard to do that inside a cramped little box. The ego likes boxes but the soul does not. We try so hard to be accepted and acceptable to everyone and everything that we lose the very side of us that came here to play. And one day we wake up and say, “Where did you go?”

But slow down, take a deep breath, be quiet, and listen and just maybe you’ll hear a little voice from deep within declare,

“I’m still here, deep down beyond the masks, the walls, the fear and worry. Just take one step outside, then another and another and you’ll find me again, waiting to play. Knock on the door and giggle and romp with me, sing silly songs and we’ll tell each other stupid knock-knock jokes. Look foolish and ignore the parent for just a few playful moments, there’s plenty of time to be serious later. Don’t waste another precious moment, come to my house and let’s play.”

 

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In the land where the Faery Lantern and Jabberwocky Play

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In a potted plant sitting obscurely in a corner of the patio behind our house sits a lamp that when night falls begins to glow an eerie blue. White crystals at its base fracture the light and send it helter-skelter across the garden floor eventually being absorbed into the dense forest of green across the miniature meadow. “What is that Grandpa?” Said my Granddaughter one warm spring evening while we sat in the dark before the moon took over the sky and dispelled the eerie shadows of the night.

“Ah yes, that’s a Fairy Lamp” I explained. “Ohh, what is that?” she whispered.

“A Faery Lantern, the link between two worlds (or the link between worlds) is like what the dream is to those who sleep and leave the world of light for the world of the night, the world of bright consciousness to the world of dark shadows.”

“The faeries are those images that reside within the dream and guide the dream body through the labyrinth of the inner psyche. Like Dickens’ ghosts of the Christmas Carol they cross through time and solid walls as though they didn’t exist. They are of the intuitive and imaginal world beholding to nothing of the material and rational and yet, and yet, hold the very secret of life, the cradle of our soul.”

“Light the lantern and sleep will overtake you and the fairies will come, dancing and flitting, soaring and buzzing through the air with an invitation to follow deeper into the night realm, deeper into the shadows of the unknown.”

“It’s mostly a curious world, a mad hatters craziness that can turn on the moment to either the sublime or upon a nightmarish Jabberwocky” I growled and clawed the air menacingly while my granddaughter recoiled in mock fear.

“It’s a place of wizards, wisdom keepers and great ladies, heroes, lovers, martyrs, tricksters, devils and death. It is a world where unicorns still forage and people can take wing over vast green meadows. Here the archetypal male in us all holds his hand to the female we all share and rejoices in the union that eludes us in the waking world.”

“As we travel through the world of the night the shape-shifting creatures of the dark will lure us into the Neverseen, the Land of Faery and introduce us to our true self. Once met and understood we can never ever be the same.”

“What do you think of that?? I queried and looked over at her, but the faeries had already come and taken her through the light of the lamp. I smiled and pulled my jacket against the encroaching cold.

 

 

To share or not to share

 

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Authenticity: To be real without pretentions. It’s hard to be authentic when you’re doing what you do for acceptance or trying to meet someone else’s expectations. The ego has to be right, look good, be acceptable, and avoid rejection all of which are barriers to authenticity. This need for acceptance might breed pretentiousness and create masks that are worn to give the impression of authenticity.

We have to dare to be our real selves no matter how scary that may be.

When we allow ourselves to be defined by our past it becomes a barrier to being in the present that I believe is the only place that authenticity can happen.

Some believe it’s all about nonconformity but I believe it’s about choice, the choice to conform or not to conform based on what is necessary in the moment. Choice can only happen authentically if one can accept either the positive or negative and then “choose” what is best for the moment and situation.

It’s about allowing our true selves to be seen. But what is your true self? Is it someone who bullies to get his or her way? Is it someone who bends over backwards to please in order to be accepted by others? Is it someone who uses their charm to get his or her way? I believe that these behaviors are of the ego-self and not the deeper self, the spirit that motivates.

True belonging, one of the basic human needs, I believe requires being yourself ego warts and all. To present a fraudulent self separates others from you and affects the real sense of belonging. Should you be accepted as a person with a mask of acceptability, it’s only the mask they love, not you.

To be real means to be vulnerable. This is the birthplace for belonging and for love, courage and creativity. When my goal becomes about safety I can’t be vulnerable and miss out on most of the joy that’s available in truly belonging. When my goal is about seeking approval it is forever empty for seeking outside oneself is an insatiable quest. This is because people give or withhold approval based on their own mood and not as a reflection of who you’re being or who you are.

Every year at our church around New Year’s there’s a basket full of stars with a word printed on each and each of us is encouraged to dip into this basket and take a star and it’s word to contemplate for the rest of the year. My word for the year is “Share”. Try as I might I couldn’t really get excited about this word, after all I already share my butt off. For six weeks I’ve been staring at this word with nothing but emptiness or some contrivance or another so that I could claim some meaningful contemplation. Only none of it has been meaningful. Then a reading group that I belong to came up against the word “Authenticity”. The discussion led to what did this word actually mean for each of us and this lead me to see my word for the year in a whole new light. Perhaps I need to “share” my true self even the self who is pretentious, self-righteous, biased, sometimes prejudiced, sometimes needy, and often self-critical. Perhaps I need to share my struggle to overcome these barriers to expressing who I really am. Perhaps I need to share in order to be real.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you share all your opinions, chances are you’ll be liked by no one after that. What I’m suggesting is that you share who you are and believe it or not you are not your opinions, you have them, but you are much more than them.

 

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Consciousness continued

 

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When we react to real world stimuli e.g. sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell only a small fraction of what is in our consciousness is recorded into our awareness with the rest going into the unconscious. Even those data that have been perceived consciously have gone into the mind and thus have become psychic events whose nature may then become unknowable to us.

Generally speaking these unconscious aspects can be revealed through the dream not as rational thoughts, but as symbolic visions.

Because unconscious information takes up so much room in the psyche it can have an enormous effect on our lives if not brought into our awareness, our consciousness and dealt with. This unconscious material can in effect rule us irrationally.

This is precisely what constitutes neuroses. When too much of our mind becomes split there is what psychologists term “dissociation.” Primitives termed this as a “loss of the soul” and often it was what they referred to as the “bush soul”, or the animal soul, that was lost. Many rituals would be performed by the local shaman to help heal, or at least balance the split caused when a person radically dissociated their psyche. For the American society this is the job of the local psychiatrist, psychologist, or clergy.

In our dreams the split can show up as someone who is two faced. It can also show up as a mask hiding something grotesque. It can come to us as a shadow figure pursuing us through dark corridors.

I see this split pervading the society as a whole and I wonder if the society has split itself off from the deeper parts of its psyche? There seems to be a societal dissociation that has revealed itself in our severe polarization. It separates nearly everyone from their inner nature and has caused a cultural neurosis the symptoms of which seem to be a frantic effort to fill a non-existent void (I say ‘non-existent void’ because I think we have only misplaced our bush soul and not lost it altogether).

We try to fill what appears to be missing through the neurotic acquisition of things such as clothes, cars, houses, “newageisms”, populist ideology, right religious expression, money, right spouses, the best team, children,  and diplomas. It shows up in our lust for the newest thing in technology, or foods, or diets, or husbands, or wives, or sex. It shows up when we follow the political phenomena of, “Throw the bastards out!” as an attempt to correct the perceived wrong done to us by our politicians.

But it’s not “out there” where the problem lay, it’s in the collective “in here” (point toward your own heads and hearts).

Our consciousness has become fragmented, disrupted if you will, and has left us chasing after ephemera. We have lost our connection with our soul. I think that we can only find our hidden soul by looking into the recesses of our unconscious and reconnecting the disparate parts of the psyche.

A heart meditation: letting go

 

th.jpgOf late I’ve had a number of people write about dreams that included the concept of letting go e.g. death and dying images, dropping things, toilet images, even ghosts. Many of the dreams also included images from the past such as a childhood home.

Because most of us don’t really let go of past hurts in that we tend to deny them, push them down, and gloss them over as in “what’s past is past, or then was then” that in and of themselves is appropriate if what you’re actually doing is letting go of the events and hurts. But most of us aren’t letting go.

We tend to hold on to painful resentments, feelings, disappointments, grief, betrayals, guilt, and hurts by storing them in the footlocker of our unconscious mind. After many years and as many memories we have quite a treasury of buried material built up. These buried negatives are something like radioactive waste that after time begins to leak onto the surface of our lives, poisoning much of what we do and think and feel. Most of this stuff seems to arise uninvited, in our dreams, or in troubles we find ourselves in in our waking lives.

We seem to armor ourselves against any future pains by walling parts of us off, or putting up barriers to protect ourselves from others. It’s a slow process and for most of us we don’t notice how much different we are as adults than we were as children. The free expression of the self is often subdued, or cut off, the playful part of ourselves moderated, or pasted on to make it look as though we’re being a free spirit full of fun, where in the quiet of our own homes after the party we nurse the effects of our drug or alcohol induced gaiety and wonder if anyone actually really liked us or bought into our act.

All these stored negatives over time close our hearts to ourselves and to others and weighs us down.

So what to do?

Well, following the theme of letting go i.e. of unchaining from the past, I’ve found that there is an ancient practice that can literally transform one’s relationship with the past and lighten considerably their experience of the present. In short, it heals, it dissolves obstructions, and it opens the heart to other hearts. It shifts our identification with the negative and helps us to resolve the unresolved. It can even help us to regain a positive relationship with our own bodies.

What is this magic of what I speak? It’s called, forgiveness. Really! It’s forgiveness that can heal us back into our own hearts. It’s the letting go of resentments and negative self-judgments. It opens ones heart and lessens pains from the past. It helps us to get back in touch with our soulful, playful self.

When we accept ourselves and others for what we and they are i.e. “as is” it includes even their non acceptance of us. It allows the mind to get beyond it itself.

You can’t force forgiveness, that’s just more of the same old squashing down of negatives that caused the problem in the first place.

A forgiveness meditation:

As with the technique of Active Imagining http://thedreamingwizard.com/active-imagining_291.html Close your eyes in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and bring into your mind an image of someone for whom you have resentment. Make their image as real as you can even to the smell of them if you can.

For just a moment open your heart to them and notice your own fear, or anger, or whatever feelings that seem to arise. Keep looking at them and letting whatever your feeling just sit with you.

Now, look at them and slowly say, “I forgive you, I forgive you.” Watch your feelings as you do this, don’t do anything with them, just let them be there. Now say, “ I forgive you for the pain you have caused me whether you did it on purpose or by accident. Watch your feelings as you say this. “I forgive you for what you did, or didn’t do. I forgive you. I forgive you.

Watch the pain in your heart and see if you can let some of it go. Watch the person and let a little more of them into your heart. “I forgive you.” Let them be in the surrounding stillness. “I forgive.” Let them be as they are and in their own way of being. “I forgive you.” “I forgive you.” “I forgive.” Allow the distance between your hearts to dissolve. Allow them to be touched by your blessing and the potential of your forgiveness.

Now let the person leave when they are ready to go. Just watch them go and notice what you’re feeling as they go.

Open your eyes and sit in peace for a few moments.

The forgiveness meditation works but it often takes more than once. Keeping the heart open takes work and commitment, not to others but to yourself and your own sense of well-being. After many practices over time the forgiveness will stick and the heart expands.

 

Imbalance, dissociation, polarization, discontinuity and fear: What I learned in the archipelago of my dreams.

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The Archipelago of Dreams

 

At one level this article may look like a political statement, but it is not in that vein that I present it. All social animals e.g. Wolves, Apes, bees, ants, porpoise, human beings, etc. have some kind of cohesive principle, some kind of leadership, or coordinating system. In large social systems anarchy just doesn’t work. Scientists have even found this principle at the molecular level–most of us would not be able to survive for very long if our internal systems didn’t have a coordinating system and/or if the system were to become polarized and its parts weren’t willing to cooperate with each other.

From the very beginning of recorded western thought philosophers like Heraclitus and Hippocrates believed that there was “one common flow, a common breathing. Everything is in sympathy. The whole organism and each one of its parts are working together for the same purpose.” The Roman scholar, Agrippa spoke of an essence beyond the four known in his day as water, earth, air and fire and that it held existence together. He called it the World Soul. A more modern thinker, Carl Jung, called it the Anima Mundi. It was the glue that kept existence together, the balancing effect that kept everything on an even keel and in balance.

In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert discovers that the balance that keeps the world functioning has been dangerously tipped and that he has been conscripted to help in bringing the world back to equilibrium. But his own fears and the fears of others muster powerful physical and psychological forces to prevent him in achieving his mission. These same forces are acting on all of us on a daily basis and at an intensity that endangers the fabric of human life.

I’ve said this before; fear affects decision-making, what I haven’t said is that it kills as well. It not only kills innovation, but the body also. When there is a threat to the body the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) kicks in and all systems are diverted from growth and development to reaction defense mode–fight or flight. Adrenalin pours into the system and mobilizes the body for action. The immune system is repressed because right now the external world poses a greater threat than the inner and the forebrain, the center for reasoning and logic, is slowed–no time for thinking, gotta act. Vascular flow is limited to the limbs, for running or fighting and conscious volitional action is curtailed, better to let the instincts take over.

Now under normal circumstances this state of affairs only lasts for a few minutes at best, just enough to survive an attack. And thank goodness, because the body begins to deteriorate after awhile when on high alert. The HPA is an excellent system for responding to immediate threat, but it was not designed to be activated continuously. Hyper vigilance eventually dissociates the body from the mind and the community from its leadership.

This kind of hyper-vigilance eventually wreaks havoc on the health of the body. When the immune system is suppressed all kinds of viral and bacterial bad guys can attack and take over–while focusing too much on external safety a fifth column of micro-nasties compromise your health. When the body is reflecting on the external too much it neglects the internal and is thrown precariously off balance.

In our society fear, or its smaller cousin, anxiety, has at some level become de rigor, the emotion trend du jour and we find ourselves constantly on alert. Since 9/11 we have entered a continuous state of protection and our quality of life has become impaired. A constant background state of fear (exploited politically) keeps the HPA system activated and our lives become more reactionary than thoughtful–you can’t think straight when emotionally involved. After a while the body habituates and it sees fear, or something to fear, everywhere. One of the first things to happen under these conditions is that we lose tolerance for anything that is different, because “different” often translates to something threatening.

Lack of tolerance leads to an impaired ability to cooperate for it might be ‘every man for himself.’ We see this intolerance and lack of cooperation in many social contexts, but most notably within our political systems that really only reflect ourselves. In an environment of fear reactionary opinion trumps reality and the rational takes a back seat to self-protective beliefs­­–clear thinking becomes a victim and the society begins to dissociate which is a fancy psychologists word for separating from one another–to disunite. Nothing can be more debilitating for a community whether it be a community of biological cells, animals, insects, a business corporation, or people in general.

Continuous fear consumes our energy toward getting our needs met as well. We seem to live in a constant state of being out of control of our destiny and as we throw up more walls and fences to keep out what threatens us we begin to lose independence, autonomy and ultimately our ability to enact free will. On an individual level we become sick and vulnerable to diseases or just a lack of focused attention that can affect us creatively. On a national level we see our ability to innovatively compete globally impaired, and on a global level the reaction to our inability to get our needs met can be seen in the Arab Spring, and the protests in Greece, Russia and the United States. The “Year of the Protest” may very well be a correction toward the extremes perpetrated by those in power. Would that these powers could see that it is in their best interest as well to let this correction take its course. In the short run things may look scary, but healing isn’t always pretty–sometimes you have to scrape the scab to let what is underneath it “breathe.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt said after the last great attack against our country that, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself!” Truer words have never been spoken, fear can kill us–it can destroy the genius of the country and sicken its society. The very essence of the World Soul is in jeopardy because it has become every man for himself as we belittle the efforts of our leaders and refuse to listen to each other. The scale that keeps the world in equilibrium is way off center. It is imperative that we rediscover our balance–a center of being from which we can manifest our broader, deeper, truer nature!

In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert learns what needs to be healed in order to bring humanity into equilibrium and in the process learns how to heal himself as well.