Peace of mind in a time where there isn’t any

heart_meditation_self_compassion_639_480_s_c1.jpgDreams of avoidance, running away from or running after; dreams of loved ones who have passed– grandma, grandpa, mom and dad, sister or brother, or best friend; dreams of when we were younger; dreams of flying, of being trapped, or alone in an empty town looking for a place of respite.

In a time of high stress and confusion they’re all dreams of searching for solace, comfort, support, and relief. They’re all dreams looking for peace of mind where there doesn’t seem to be any. For many their dreams include prayers to Jesus, God, or in the bringing of loved ones back again into their lives.

Many of us spend parts of our waking days reading the statistics of those who are infected and those who have died in our area, in our state, our country, and our world. But the numbers don’t seem to help nor do the empty promises of our leaders some of whom just seem to be mostly interested in themselves and how they look.

We sit alone with our frustrations, our anger, fears and grief for those we love and for the loss of security, morality, peace of mind, and in many cases the loss of livelihood. All is a cry for help in a time of great unknowns.

For many there is a natural attempt to hide from the pain and fear of it all or to rage at it or to understand it, but we can’t get away from it or understand it and raging only increases the sense of despair. We  can’t even get away from it in our sleep. We cannot evade our suffering for it is a part of us nor can we evade the suffering of others for in what is happening, we are all in this together and we know it. Blaming won’t fill the void nor will avoiding the fear and anxiety.

So, what to do?

Many have tried Zoom get-togethers, gardening, running, long walks, puzzles, video games and binge-watching old favorites on the nostalgia channels, the list is endless, but it hasn’t filled the need for the peace of mind we seek.

So, where does someone find peace of mind and solace when there doesn’t seem to be any?

Some who have written me have found it in the giving of grace, understanding and comfort to others– the leaving of cut flowers or a favorite meal on someone’s doorstep, calling a lonely shut-in, shopping for someone who cannot get out as easily, and calling to find out if they are in need. Though we are physically distancing it doesn’t mean we cannot grow closer to each other through our active caring for one another.

From my understanding of the human condition we need to acknowledge each others suffering as well as our own and not hide from it and that in doing so it will help to open the door and let the light shine into the shadows of our lives right now.

In short, many who have written me are finding the peace of mind, comfort and solace they need is in the giving of it to others. Go figure, when we give away what we don’t have to others we seem to get it back. Perhaps this a lesson we needed to learn during this time of separation, partisanship, and distancing especially in a country that prided itself in its unity by declaring to the world that its states and its people were “United” and that EVERYONE counted. Perhaps we need to act as though EVERYONE counts and in so doing get that we count. Many seem to be saying that to care and be cared for instead of making one another wrong may bring the peace of mind we crave.

Dreams in the time of the pandemic lockdown

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Are you having more dreams or at least remembering more than usual during these long and stressful days of the pandemic lockdown?

Many people are reporting not only increased dreaming but more emotionally laden dreams, anxiety dreams, scary dreams. Their dreams are more intense and vivid as well.

These dreams are what some psychologists are calling “quorandreams” or quarantine dreams and can reflect vividly what you’re experiencing during the day and are part of the mind’s system for dealing with high anxiety (especially in the waking state suppression of it) and in some cases trauma. Given that most of life is so far out of the normal right now it is indeed like a trauma.

So, what is happening?

Typically, our dreams tend to be metaphorical reenactments of our daily lives and/or our responses to these events. In times of high stress our dreams can become more vivid, intense and emotionally laden. We seem to get more of them because for many of us we are sleeping longer than usual and not being awakened by that infernal alarm clock right in the middle of a dream causing us to lose the dream upon awakening.

Because dreams often reflect our emotional state many folks are experiencing metaphorical symbols related to ones emotions such as tornadoes, floods, tsunamis/tidal waves, and drownings. If they are in quarantine or lockdown they may also be experiencing dreams of being trapped, caged, or tied up. Some may experience being attacked or threatened in a dream or of being in a car or airplane that is out of control. Overcoming an attack in some way can represent ones desire to take back control as is any dream theme of taking back personal responsibility for what is happening in life e.g., driving a car in a dream versus being a passenger in it.

Some people dream of running to the bathroom or searching for a bathroom which can be symbolic of the need to get rid of unwanted negativity. Some dream of falling or the fear of falling. Others dream of killings that often reflect the desire for something to end.

So, what can you do about these anxiety, fear, and stress related dreams? For starters realize that you are not alone in this in that many, many people are experiencing these kinds of dreams right now as well as increased stress and anxiety. Sometimes the mere act of writing them down can be immensely cathartic/calming and the act of writing/journaling itself can provide a sense of increased personal control.

I would also suggest that you may want to wind down before going to bed, shut off the TV, the cell phone, and computer. Also if you have a place where you have some privacy light a candle, find a quiet space within you (mine is in a Redwood Forest along the California coast recreated in my mind as the default quiet space within my meditation) and meditate allowing whatever comes to mind to just pass on through without engaging it. In other words just be with whatever comes up for you without resisting or judging or entertaining it. Just keep coming back to whatever non thinking space you have chosen to enter. Don’t let your thoughts carry you off and if you do come back to the quiet space. Though you can meditate as long as you want I personally do a 20 to 30 minute meditation ending with a deep breath taken in to the count of 4 and a deep breath blown out to the count of four done three times (this can be done both at the beginning and at the end as a means of centering and cleansing the body of any residual stress).

Hang in there folks, as my grandmother used to say, “This too will end!” In the meantime listen to your dreams, get plenty of sleep, and stay safe.

 

This is a new ad for the book Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting. For those who are either just starting out working with their dreams or those who are more familiar with the unconscious terrain of their dreams this book covers more than 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across more than 140 different countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all the possible meanings it can point the dreamer in a direction for exploration.

 

 

Be Gentle with Your Dreams: An excerpt from Morpheus Speaks

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The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting

Be careful as you walk through the hidden forests of your dreams. They compose the unprotected essence of who and what you are. They are the messengers of your soul and your deeper self.

They harbor all your worries and fears, your dislikes and rejected aspects, your hopes and desires laid bare. They are born of the irrational, the imaginative, and the intuitive—a world of being as real and as informative as the rational world of science.

Both the outer masks that we all present to the world and the masks 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 faces 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 learn to accept and interpret 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 in order to survive in what is often a chaotic world. Our dreams are our inner saviors.

Dreams reveal a truth about our emotional state of mind, our physical well-being, our psychological health, and our sense of the spiritual. They are our deepest connection with everything, one another, and God or the universal spirit.

Dreams create a nightly map to the experience of being human, and if read properly, they 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 the person’s story and life narrative, and only he or she can know the true meaning of dreams.

In a way, how we interpret our dreams may be about how we interpret ourselves and how we think and imagine ourselves into being.

Use of plants for sleep, dream intensity and nightmare control

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Ancient Greek Asclepeion on the island of Kos

Various cultures throughout the written history of humankind have used plants to heal and induce trances and dreams. The ancient Ayurveda method of using plants to heal and induce sleep comes from the Indian subcontinent and is believed to bring balance back to an unbalanced system i.e. to heal what ails you.

In Ancient Greece people used to come from all over the known world to stay at clinics called Asclepeion where they would sleep amongst such plants as Lavender so as to incubate dreams. They would then tell their dream to a priest who would then diagnose their health issue and prescribe certain herbal or diet remedies and even some surgery if warranted through the dream interpretation.

This practice has attained some recent popularity though there is a substantial danger in using the over-the-counter material in that it has been found to contain high amounts of toxins such as mercury and other heavy metals and because there is no real oversight of this industry the concentrations of the plant ingredients is often too low to affect any healthful usefulness.

To that end I have mostly grown my own plants so that I have better control over their quality.

These plants made into teas or just tucked under a pillow or growing in a pot next to your bed have been found throughout the centuries to induce sleep, dream recall, and the reduction of nightmares. I cannot vouch for all of them and note this with the following icon: X. Those that I’ve tried and found to work I’ve used the following code: !=works; !!=works well .

WARNING: Of course none of these should be used in any form without consulting a physician. Those taking prescription medications should consult with a doctor for any negative interactions regarding these herbal interventions.

 

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Lavender (as a tea additive–use sparingly; as an under the pillow sachet; growing in a pot near the bed) !! 

 

 

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Chamomile (as a tea, or growing in a pot near the bed) !!

 

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Licorice (It’s not Anise. Infused into a tea; or as a hard candy drop before bed) !!

 

 

 

 

Wormwood (Fresh and under your pillow; in a tea; has been used to calm nightmares. There are side effects [such as seizures] so if ingesting this plant in any form, one should be very careful–see warning below. It is also found in Absinth) !

 Vervain (used in its dried form in a sachet near your pillow helps with sleep) X

 Valerian root (as a tea it will promote restful sleep– can cause diarrhea and heart palpitations– see warning below) X

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Passionflower (the fresh flower can be used to treat insomnia) X

 

Violets (to aid in restful sleep in a tonic) X

 Hops (Yes, the flavoring used in beer can help in its non-alcoholic form induce a restful nights sleep and powerful dreams when sleeping on a pillow filled with it, or in a tea) X

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Ginseng (in a tea can help induce sleep) !

 

 

 

Thyme tea (to cure nightmares) X

Skullcap (as a tea it can help with insomnia) X

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Sage (burn it as a smudge during a meditation just before sleep) !

 

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Lemon Balm (as a tea for a soothing nights sleep) !!

 

 

 

Catnip (in a tea can help with insomnia) X

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Kava Kava (sleep inducer, stress relief as a tea– in some concentrations this tea has caused some liver distress and is banned in some European countries, though it is still allowed in the U.S.– see warning below) !!

 

 

WARNING: Of course none of these should be used in any form without consulting a physician. Those taking prescription medications should consult with a doctor for any negative interactions regarding these herbal interventions.

There’s a logic to dreams?

 

I’ve spoken of the logic of dreams before, or seeming lack of it. Things happen in dreams that follow no logic you would see in the waking world such as turning a corner and walking into your childhood home, the backyard of which sits on the edge of a great chasm (for those of you where that’s the norm, just ignore this example).

Some scientists suggest that this is proof that dream stories are but a failure of cognition, while others suggest that this is an extension of the cognitive process and allows for inspiration, creativity and religious expression. It could also be a little of both in that dreams become so singularly focused that details such as your childhood home still being in existence when it’s not are incidental to the theme of the dream. Long-term memories that may be affiliated with the theme are allowed to come to consciousness in a dream where the waking logic system has been suspended. This allows for greater participation on the part of the dreamer, whereas they would reject the event were it to show up in a waking state, or if not reject, then just imagine it as ‘pretend’ and not engage it as thoroughly. In a dream one can interact with the non-logical dream material in a way not possible in the awake state. In short, dreaming allows one to interact with deep and frequently hidden, emotional traces, but can only do so if the conscious logic system is shut off.

There is also the possibility that non-logical thoughts, or patterning, in dreams create symbols that when run through the logical waking state transforms them. Is the unconscious sending out symbols it knows will be interpreted in a certain way by the wakened dreamer, based both on their personal and collective archetypal images?

I’m a firm believer that nothing exists without a purpose, that God doesn’t add meaningless junk to the equation. As I’ve mentioned before the sleeping brain shuts down the prefrontal area that among other things regulates our experience and mediation of reality and helps us to develop a logos for what we experience. This shut down is what prevents us from ‘reacting’ to what we see within a dream (known as REM Atonia). It also helps us to “accept” the logos of the dream and to then participate in it.

Fundamentally, the neurophysiology of the sleeping brain allows for an expanded consciousness because that which is not focused on during the awake cycle can be accessed, analyzed, and synthesized by the subliminal self and added to the overall awareness that we call consciousness. God seems to have given us this expanded potential for consciousness. I wonder why after so many millennia we seem to not use this ability more to our advantage? It may be an answer as to why humanity goes so much faster in advancing its technology while its social abilities remain so slow to progress.

The ancient wisdom of Dream Incubation and application to waking world events

 

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A 6th century BCE dream incubation clinic in Ancient Greece

I’ve often said that dreams can be useful in the waking life. Often patterns in a dream reflect the same patterns in our waking life e.g. behaviors, problems, and emotions that show up in dreams show up our waking lives as well. Pay particular attention to the emotions in a dream either those that are experienced by you or by some other character. Notice if there are some repeating patterns of feeling. For example, does anger keep showing up in the dream, or in other dreams? How about conflicts with characters, or between characters in the dream? Do these reflect internal conflicts that you’re having with yourself, or with people or events outside yourself?

Frequently a dream can lead to solving some vexing problem in the waking world. You can even program your dreams to deal with external issues without having to wait for them to show up in a dream. This is called Dream Incubation and to varying degrees has been used for thousands of years as a means of healing and problem solving.

Let’s focus on problem solving for a moment, after all we all have problems, right?

To get things started, here’s an incubation technique that many dream analysts and behaviorists use. Be sure to be as honest with yourself as possible–this is all private, no one’s looking.

Before beginning, OWN THE PROBLEM. Whose problem is it? If it’s not yours, then why are you fooling with it? This process is not about solving someone else’s problem. Once decided that it’s your problem you can then move on.

 

  • Define the problem
  • What are you thinking may be the cause?
  • Have you thought of any solutions and have you tried them? Why won’t they work?
  • While writing these down, what feelings are coming up for you?
  • Can you imagine what benefits you might be getting from letting this problem continue as is e.g. is it easier, or safer to leave it be than to try to resolve it i.e. would you lose anything by solving it? Often at an unconscious level we are the reason that a problem perpetuates itself.
  • How committed are you to finding a solution? If not, why?

 

Sometimes just the process of taking time to work with a problem can reveal a solution, but you can also move on to the next step:

  •   Request an answer from your dream self. For example, don’t use any “yes” or “no”   questions and be precise: “ Show me why I am having problems with______________.”
  •   Place a notebook and pen next to your bed to record your dreams.

In ancient Greece* in such dream incubation and healing centers (Asclepia) such as the one at Delphi, people would travel to the centers and follow certain rituals designed to get the dreamer ready for a healing dream. Candles often set the mood along with a ritual bathing with the intent of cleansing both the body and the soul. Abstinence of all drugs (except those prescribed by a physician), and alcohol and sometimes fasting were required of all seekers. I suggest that you do the same. A time for prayer so as to thank in advance a healing dream from the gods or some special deity was always invoked. You can do this by thanking God, or the spirit, your own soul, or the universe for the insights to be received.

Sometimes the dreamer would meditate, or relax to the sounds of naturally flowing water, or music, or rhythmic drumming as they lay down to sleep, keeping in mind the chosen Question from the Dream e.g. “Show me why I am having problems with______________.”

As soon as you awaken from your dream, record whatever you recall. Note, that it may take more than one night to incubate such a dream. This is not unusual, oft times an ancient seeker would take a week or more. The answer will come, try not to be discouraged.

As with anything worth doing, practice makes perfect and as with most human endeavors your commitment and ‘Will’ may be tested. In the beginning the wisdom of your inner psyche may not give up its secrets easily. If the problem were easy to solve you would have by now…solved it. The ancients as well as moderns go to the Greater Wisdoms than that of their ego-selves when problems (such as health, emotional, behavioral, or social) seem to be resistant to solution through personal manipulation e.g. when you can’t figure it out and no matter what you do the problem stays stuck.

In addition to the above rituals and techniques, you might share your dreams with a trusted friend, often the other person can see things in your dream that you cannot. The ancient Greek seeker would share their dreams with a priest, the oracle or others to aid in its interpretation. Group work with other seekers can be helpful as well as can working with a trained counselor.

Good luck!

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* Though I’ve used the Greeks as an example here, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Turks, in the Upanishads from India, the Chinese, and many African tribes, as well as many Christian saints and mystics sought guidance through this kind of dream incubation method. See http://thedreamingwizard.com/history-of-dreams_290.html for more on ancient healing and dream incubation centers.

Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting

Morpheus Speaks: This is the book 10 years in the making that many of you have been waiting for.

In it you will find a means for decoding the alchemy of dreams and the mysteries of the inner self. There are special sections on Native American, Aboriginal, shamanistic , pagan, and the Abrahamic and Asian religious traditions spread throughout the book.

The symbols of our dreams are like the paradoxical parables and koans of all religions. As with the questions presented by all holy ones our dreams are speaking to us in a way as to offer us an illumination of who and what we are. They are truly the road to our souls.

 

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In both Kindle and Soft Cover (click on this and preview and purchase on Amazon)

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All the world’s a stage, but at a profound level, it’s as you like it

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My wife and I have spent many a happy moment with William Shakespeare at the Ashland Shakespearean Festival in Oregon, something we have been doing for over 35 years now. As always I was drawn into to his wild and fanciful stories and coming back into my own reality only when the actors bid ado and exited the stage. Where I go when they begin, I do not know for it seems as though I’m always there even though the “there” seems to be somewhere else– a secret dream-like place.

I’ve also found that there’s a secret place deep inside each of us that speaks in images, not words, and in sounds that aren’t really heard. It is a knowing unlearned from the pages of a book or the ministrations of a teacher that never gets old for it is always discovered anew. It is a mystery place, an inner school, and library of wisdom.

Some mistakenly imagine it to be a result of past experience interacting with present events, but look closely and you will see that this is not so. For this mysterious part of our self speaks from more than just the debris of our past or the confusing chaos’s of our present or some previously scripted story from some offstage deity. This is the almost soundless voice of our true-self whispering its guidance while we sleep– asleep as we walk through our days, asleep as we lay our heads upon our beds.

We are “Sleepers” you and I and for a brief moment in time we disappear into the mystery story that we call life. We become transfixed with the images conjured through its living text and forget it is but a story.

And oh what a story! We create fantastical tales full of intrigue, emotion, and plot twists with multiple beginnings and ends that we’ve stitched into a Dream Book of ideas that arc towards a promised resolution and an ending that never really materializes. We ache with the main character as they rush headlong into the plot searching for the promised grail– the answers that will bring them to the stories’ monumental and mind-expanding conclusion.

Then we wake up and leave the stage.

 

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Why interpret your dreams? It’s about waking up!

 

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I’ve had a number of people ask what the real purpose of dreams are and one even suggested that they were only artifacts of a brain-clearing process and of no value at all. It was this last reader who comes the closest in naming the dream process though he should lose the “no value” component.

Research has shown that dreaming is the brain’s way of dumping all the stored data of the day, all the tens of thousands of input that we don’t even notice consciously, but that the subconscious picks up on, and then sorts through this material for what’s important for the conscious mind to retain and what’s not. Then it takes the saved material and stores it into the long-term memory files to be accessed when necessary. What’s left just degrades. Pretty simple, huh? So what’s all this ‘meaning’ mumbo jumbo that dream analysts apply to this data processing system?

Firstly, and I think most importantly, one might ask what is the filter through which the material is screened, what decides what is saved and what is dumped? Certainly it’s not the conscious mind, the part of the mind that most of us are aware of, the part that we identify as being ourselves. Something, then, is making the decision for me and where’s the free will in that?

And if this is the data that I then depend on to help inform my actions, shouldn’t I have some idea of its veracity? If there’s something unconscious that’s determining the material I will use to live my life, I certainly want to know where it comes from and I’d also like to have some say on what gets in there. I mean, I have a choice as to what media I listen to in my waking life e.g. my neighbor, my church, the local paper, the National Enquirer, radio talk show hosts, TV news, or internet media. Why do I abdicate that choice to some unseen force in the unconscious part of the psyche? I want to decide what’s of value to my life.

This process of sifting through our experiences is happening when we are awake as well and informs us with data that is categorized as being similar in nature to whatever it is we are experiencing in the here and now. Which is why we can take an instant dislike to someone, or some place when we haven’t had the time to consciously assess them.

Remembering your dreams and then discerning their meaning, or consciously assessing something, or someone, in real time, brings some of that choice back to you.

Secondly, the unseen force to which I allude to above is often a product of all the scary, messy, distasteful and unwanted aspects of ourselves, or in our experience, that we have actively stuffed away so as to not have to deal with them. Also, hidden in there are the unconscious beliefs that our families placed in us, and those hurts and fears as perceived by the child and the decisions about life that that child made about those experiences. And beneath all that is a collection of human archetypes built into the DNA that have been developed over eons of evolution and designed as part of an instinctual response system to threat, only the threats are much more complex and subtle today than merely running from a saber-toothed tiger.

This is the system that filters your experience and provides the foundation for all your decisions and all of your responses and thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Of course if you were living in caves in the wild you may not need anything more than your built-in instincts to survive, but most of us now live in much more complex environments, but are still dependent on a system developed for living in something simpler and more straight forward e.g. throw a rock, or spear, or run like hell (though some would say that’s a pretty good skill-set for the streets of New York, or Los Angeles). Not that these instinctual responses aren’t still helpful at times, but they aren’t helpful in determining who to vote for, or how to deal with an idiot boss, or how to respond to an angry neighbor, or what kind of car is a responsible purchase environmentally, etc.

We can continue to let sleeping dogs lay and just ignore this arbiter of our lives, or we can take the revolutionary, and perhaps evolutionary, step of taking back full control of our lives. We can only do this when we know what it is that is making the decisions for us and what those decisions are. The access to that information lays in the unconscious mind, what some researchers have suggested makes up to 70% of who we are and the door to that hidden place is through the dream (there are other doors such as meditation, but I don’t want to get into that now).

However, even this 70% figure is challenged by Dr. Wayne Dyer who suggests that the unconscious may very well comprise up to 97% of who we are. That definitely suggests that we are mostly unconscious i.e. asleep. This suggests that the unconscious mind is the director of our lives. How do we get free of that? Perhaps the answer to that lies in our acknowledging things as they really are.

Lastly, all that data that’s being dumped is interesting and may hold many of the answers I’ve been searching for in my life. It is precisely this data that the artist, the poet, the writer, the inventor, the musician, the scientist, and the intuitive CEO tap into as they create. How much has been lost because we have not paid attention? I, for one, intend to pay attention.

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