Alone one morning last week I sat outside under the broad canopied and cascading Elm that’s taking on new leaf as Spring brings warmer days, though the morning’s are still chilly so I was bundled in my favorite throw blanket across my legs. As I do virtually every morning I was playing around with words and concepts on my laptop hoping for some inspiration to visit and this poem made itself known and demanded that I write it down.
Hidden deep in my heart I hear a plaintive cry, find me, I am here, can you not see?”
What you are looking for is also looking for you. It has always been there waiting for you to show up.
What is it that binds us all together it asks? Surely it is not your illusions of separateness.
What would happen if you were not so interested in your own personality and were grateful for all who come your way for they are your teachers and mirrors to your Self.
You were born of love in a space where there are no boundaries. It is the head that knows boundaries. Not so for the heart. That magic knows no boundaries.
I look closer at the ideas visiting me and see that magic is always my companion if I had but the eyes to see it and the heart to walk with it.
When I see the magic in another person I know that it is my own magic as well that I am seeing.
Tolerance, compassion, and patience are doors into this magic and this magic is never loud for it dwells in the silent places within my heart.
But I struggle to see the magic let alone to be it. And sometimes it is just so hard, and I tire of the scuffle and my body slides down into the chair losing the energy to sit upright.
But then that bossy Spirit that never lets me stay in a good slide for very long pulls me up and I find myself saying that I need embrace the struggle for it is like a fire to the metal beaten by the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil. It makes me pliable to change. The change I need to see the magic.
When the goal is to be open to all the magic that is around and within me, in time I will hear what I am ready to hear and see what I am ready to see. And I whisper to myself,
Dreams 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.
My most important lesson in life I learned from Pinocchio
In this time of seeming unreality I was reminded of the story of Pinocchio where a wooden puppet dreamed of becoming a real boy. The Blue Fairy promises him that if he is good and his heart is true and honest he will become a real boy. Of course he suffers all the wrong turns in his journey toward realness and many characters and circumstances try to steal parts of his soul along the way. He becomes lost, abused and alone at times but eventually he finds his way home by taking the ultimate risk to his life to protect his mentor and creator, the loveable old toy maker Geppetto, by being willing to sacrifice himself for love.
The story is a mirror of the path we are all on as we grow toward wholeness and self-actualization. I believe that at our core our hearts are true and that we can only experience this when we are willing to let go of our ego selves, to sacrifice our self-centeredness by the giving of our heart and mind to something other than our self and when we are willing to open to love.
Pinocchio is an allegorical tale of the Heroes Journey that we are all on, a journey toward reality and wholeness, awareness and redemption where we struggle, die to our old self, and are then resurrected anew. Nearly every story worth its salt has a hero, or heroine, striving for something of great value e.g. life, justice, a golden fleece, freedom, transformation, and/or redemption. Each is tried in the crucible of what life has to throw at them and all are convinced that to attain the goal will bring them wholeness and make them real.
We are all on Pinocchio’s Journey, all trying to find the gold of our core being. As we set out we look into all the nooks and crannies of life, down all its dark alleys, or pray to all its gods and Blue Fairies hoping that somewhere out there are the answers to becoming real. But with some luck and perseverance we can learn that the answer to becoming real has always been within us– that reality is a function of what’s in our hearts and not what is in some temple. Life can steal the parts of our self that we have given up to others so that we can feel safe, but Life cannot steal our heart for it is immutable.
The real you lies at your core being and is available to you when you give up your need for ego survival. This is the lesson of Pinocchio.
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.
Because it is not the point of the article, I am not going to go into what the soul is or is not or where it goes when we die. When I speak of Soul Loss I’m speaking to what happens to our souls when we abuse them or when we injure them.
Whenever you’ve said to yourself, “I wish I were dead” we’ve sent a part of the soul to the land of the dead. Every time we give up on a dream or when we lose trust in ourselves we give up a part of our soul. When we play small in our life by giving in to our fears or pride or greed we injure the soul as well for the soul only wants to play large in everything we do. We are constantly banishing pieces of our soul.
In fact many of us cause harm to the soul through our self-destructive habits–drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, self-criticism, overeating, arrogance, etc..
But the soul also leaves us when grief has become so painful that we shut down or when fear becomes too great. Even certain life changes can bruise the soul such as a relationship break-up, a death in the family, or a change in jobs or life style.
Immigrants and refugees suffer this kind of damage when they leave their homes, especially when they are not leaving out of choice. This is of course compounded when their freedom destination has been blocked.
Soul loss is chronic in societies where there’s a small but dominant group of people who control the lives of others such as in autocratic, totalitarian or theocratic cultures or subcultures (this can happen here in the U.S. in villages, small towns, or in peoples homes with an oppressive element). It also happens in cultures and subcultures where opportunities are restricted on an ethnic, class or gender level, or where there is a huge and widening gap between those who have and those who have not. We also see it in cults or with the rigid dogma of some religious sects.
And some jobs are so stifling because of certain oppressive management practices that the soul begins to retreat to the darker parts of our being. The fact is that the soul thrives in creative environments where the individual’s independence is honored and nurtured.
Some say that only trauma will trigger soul loss but isn’t that what I’ve outlined above? Do not all these little traumas whittle away at our souls?
Have you suffered soul loss? It’s possible. Look closely at yourself for a moment do you, or have you, suffer(ed) from depression, constant anxiety, low energy and constant fatigue (any chronic sleep disturbance)? Does the world look gray around you regardless of the weather? Do you suffer low-self esteem, emotional numbness, helplessness or are caught up in and can’t let go of a negative past or some past event? Do you stress over many little things? Are you extremely overweight (or affected by some eating disorder), given up your dreams, or suffered or acted out abuse? Those who have suffered extreme abuse and who have been diagnosed with PTSD are on the rise globally.
Have you ever suffered a loss of self-esteem from a failure or at the hands of a bully personality? Most of us have and most of our negative soul-damaging experiences have been unavoidable. But it’s what we do afterward that can make all the difference to their healing. Often it’s the degree to which we let the hurts steal a part of our souls and when we go into agreement with our darker aspects that the loss was deserved that determines the depth and longevity of the experienced loss.
When we try to stuff the stink of soul loss i.e., suppress it or try to change it by adding perfume to it through a change of narrative the smell becomes buried but isn’t gone. It continues to foul our inner atmosphere until we bring it out of the darkened depths and into the light where we tell the truth about it without drama, judgments, and self-criticism.
Did you know that in some studies in the U.S. almost half the adult population has reported suffering some kind of childhood abuse (this includes neglect, physical, sexual and psychological abuse)? 1 Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident in their lives and that 28% of teens 14-17 have reported sexual victimization.2 Children who live with domestic violence regardless of whether the family is intact or not have a higher risk of abuse and I contend not only suffer psycho-emotional damage but soul loss as well.
But we do not lose our soul permanently or any part of it for that matter. What does happen is we lose touch with it and/or build up barriers to its expression. Meditation, dream work, creative expression, poetry, art, giving, and yoga are some means for healing a damaged soul.
In the fictional novel by R.J. Cole, “The Archipelago of Dreams” is an exploration of how damaged souls are healed in the spirit world.
1deMouse, Lloyd, The Evolution of the Psyche and Society, Journal of Psycho-history v. 29, #1, 2002, pg.239
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.
Looking for patterns within a single dream or across a number of dreams can be a useful way to decode the dream’s meaning.
Whether or not you are able to see a theme or pattern may be affected by your individual personality traits. Whether you are perfectionistic, possessive, image conscious, self-absorbed, secretive, anxious, engaging, scattered, self-confident, willful, easy going, or self-effacing these traits are at some level going to affect your interpretation of dream themes and patterns.
The more you know about your traits, the more you can spot what the pallet you’re using to create your dream picture looks like.
Knowing something about your emotional makeup is also going to help in understanding your waking world behaviors as well as your dreams.
There are several personality type indicators with each focusing on different foundational philosophies of personality and personality development. For the purpose of this book I’m highlighting two that I have the most experience with—The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram type indicator. Both will provide the user with rough, though usable information.
I’ve taken the liberty of sharing these links to sites that I believe to be useful:
Both these sites can be quite useful at an entry level to getting a handle on how you respond to the symbols, circumstances and events of your life and make the process and results of dream interpretation all that much richer and meaningful.
Not only does your personality determine the symbols and the interpretation of those symbols, so does the extent to which you have immersed yourself in the beliefs of a religion and the values of a culture.
The Quran, the Christian and Jewish bible, the Vedas and other books of religion are used to interpret one’s life and to attempt the understanding of God, so why would they not influence your dreams? The danger in this is that rigidly narrow interpretations can sometimes only give you information about what you already know and not what you don’t know.
In any event, I’m not sure that the ‘self’ of the unconscious adheres to any religion, though it may use your belief as a way of communicating to you. This may add yet another layer of complexity to be unpeeled before getting at the small kernel of truth hidden within.
I hope you will forgive me but as I have been writing a new novel (working title “A Primer on Magic”) I ran across an earlier article I had written some time ago and wanted to share with you all. The experience of which I wrote was more like a dream or vision at the time and it still feels that way. I hope you enjoy it.
The ancient Greek, Roman, Venetian, and Ottoman world is steeped in myth, mysticism, and magic and that was never made more clear to me than when I found myself climbing with four other intrepid souls the mountain battlements of Kotor a coastal town in the small Dalmation Coast country of Montenegro (part of the old Yugoslavia) along the Adriatic. This area was first mentioned during the Roman era around 168 BCE. It is an area in the Aegean/Adriatic where many ancient Greek legends were born and where I was researching the ruins of several Asclepeions where people from all over the ancient world would come for healing. They were clinics where people would incubate a dream and the onsite priests would decipher and prescribe cures.
As we trekked through “black Mountain” hillsides we climbed over 1300 stone steps that lead us to a fortress lookout high above the city making the crème colored stucco buildings with red tile roofs look like a miniature diorama nestled in a narrow valley sloping from the high mountains to the sea. When Kotor was part of the maritime Venetian empire and prone to attacks from pirates and Arabs of the Ottoman Empire this medieval fortress was built to protect the region.
Exhausted at the end of the climb on an unseasonably hot day I was not looking forward to our descent back to the town, but Rok our Slovenian guide who was climbing with us lead us down to another path that would take us off the mountain through a little known back door.
A few hundred feet down the way we had come he left the steps, veering onto a path that traversed a defensive wall perpendicular to the one we had been traveling beside. Built into the wall was a narrow stone portal barely high enough to allow a person to duck down into a crouch in order to pass through. On the other side of this tunnel was a verdant valley hidden from the town below. It was then that I noticed that the temperature had dropped considerably. “That’s curious!” I thought. But the sun was on the western side of mountain now so I didn’t think any more about it.
Unknown to me at that moment was that we had passed through a portal in time.
We climbed down the rocky side of a cliff and landed upon a narrow path that lead us down into the valley toward a stone ruin of a church. The rocky cliff gave way to a forest of olive, pomegranate, and fig trees.
As we made our way deeper into the trees I caught movement to my right and turned to see long horned mountain goats grazing the hillside from whence we had come. A female herder sat among the rocks and under the shade of an old and twisted olive tree. There she sat paying us no attention and rolling some tobacco she’d pulled from a pouch into a small sheet of paper. Behind her one of the goats tried to pull a low hanging fig from a tree growing from a crag in the cliff above.
We approached the ruins of the ancient church, that from close up had somehow morphed into a building more intact and still useable and looking for all the world as though it had been built yesterday, I noticed other stone buildings with their roofs collapsed or missing, connected by high walls that may have formed courtyards and pens for animals at a much earlier time– a Hereford cow munched on the grassy area between the ruins.
Something nudged my rear and I turned to see what was happening and saw a black goat nibbling at a stash of wild flowers I’d stuffed into a pocket for later inspection. “So much for that” I thought and pulled the last of them and offered the bundle to the cheeky little fellow who then devoured them gleefully.
The day was getting late and we still had some distance to go so we left this bucolic scene from another time and place and headed down the gently slopping switchbacks that would lead us toward the outskirts of the town. The road was covered with stone what with the Venetians having used this passage to shuttle both cattle and cannon to and from the fortress but offered us many an opportunity to trip and stumble down the hillside. The way demanded careful negotiation and caused slow going.
Eventually the trail led to a seasonal river, a wash really, and we crossed a stone bridge into the outskirts of the town. At the crossing I noticed immediately that we had passed through yet another portal in time for there before us was a modern mall where we stopped for a few smoothies in a refreshing air-conditioned space. From the window the world we had come through could no longer be seen.
The contrast between these two worlds helped me to be more aware of the realm the earlier peoples of the region were immersed in and how the terrain, weather, and culture conspired to infuse magic into everyday life. This was a phenomenon that was much harder to see in my world.
Back in May of 2017 I wrote and article on Embodied Cognition a means for “acting out” material to be learned or discovered and thought I would catch up to myself and expand on the usefulness of this as a dream tool.
What do I mean by Active Imagination? You might think, don’t we all have an active imagination? Yes, that’s probably true to varying degrees, but that not what this is all about. Active Imagining is a dream study/therapeutic technique used by some analysts to assist people in their exploration of their unconscious motivations.
In this technique the ego remains fully conscious. The ego gets to observe and even feel unconscious content, but gives up critical content to be open to what might be available. Once the unconscious has downloaded its content with respect to certain dream images, the ego can then elaborate (activate its imagination), then after doing so as completely as possible, it then determines the meaning. This last part is critical, just enjoying the elaboration isn’t enough.
If done properly, the process can lead to a transcendent experience where as Ibn Arabi, 13th century Andalusian Muslim scholar, mystic and poet suggested, “Spirits embody themselves through the power of imagination.” He thought that form is related to spirit in a significant way and to relate to the forms within the imagination can lead one to go beyond the boundaries of the psyche. If there is no difference between spirit and the imaginal form then this technique can actually lead one to the divine. We all have this potential within the latent self.
Key to this process is to not allow the ego to manipulate the process any more than it usually does. To do so would cause a degeneration of the outcome. Which is why I would recommend doing this process with a qualified therapist. Some groups can also be helpful if they understand the parameters and possible outcome of this self-exploration technique. Note, however that beliefs can bias the material that comes from the unconscious.
At first the material will be comfortable for the ego, but later the unconscious will begin to challenge the boundaries of the ego, thus becoming an important psychological and spiritual healing tool.
There is also the possibility that the ego will resist the process because it can be threatening to the ego’s status. Many objections might show up, “This doesn’t work!”, “It’s too boring!”, “It’s stupid!” and other ego impatience and critique. Stick with it and wonders can unfold.
This is an incredible technique for exploring that, which troubles us. So don’t wish your troubles away, show the courage and grace to transform them. This way, as Carl Jung suggested, one can transform oneself as an inner partner.
“Active imagination requires a state of reverie, half-way between sleep and waking.”
For more on this technique the website of Tony Crisp might prove useful.