Tag Archives: Psychology

Dreamwork: From the “Life is But A Dream” Department

What’s your purpose?

One quick way to unlock the messages in a dream is to consider the objects or characters in a dream and ask each one: “What’s your purpose?”

This question can be asked of any object in a dream: a rhinosaurus, a bicycle, a loaf of bread, an elevator, or a cloud.

For example, I had a dream about a coffee pot sometime back. I don’t drink coffee, nor do I own a coffee pot. So what was such an object doing in my dream? Using “active imagination” I simply thought about the coffee pot in my dream, and asked, “What is you purpose?”

I don't have a coffee pot in my kitchen. But one turned up in my dreams.

I don’t have a coffee pot in my kitchen. But one turned up in my dreams.

A coffee pot is something I use (and borrow) only when company comes to visit. Brewing a pot of coffee makes people feel warm and welcomed. The one that showed up in my dream encouraged me to ask how I can bring more warmth and hospitality into my relationships.

Now, at the new year, I take this opportunity to reflect more deeply on this idea. I ask, “What is my purpose?” That is, what is my higher purpose; my true purpose? This question is trickier when applied to the complexities of a human life than it is for a utilitarian object like a coffee pot, but still, it is worth asking.

When I look at my life as if it were a dream it is difficult at first to find just one purpose. As the youngest child in my family, I often provided levity to balance out some of the ongoing tensions and anxieties around me. My parents liked to tell the story of how I once hopped onto the table and danced along to the songs on the jukebox at the Hot Dog House where we’d eat on Friday nights, or how I donned silly hats and plastic sunglasses with little swans or birds at the corners while on family vacations in Florida when I was 6 or 7. In my pre-teen and teen years, I was the family member to say what wasn’t being otherwise being said. I turned in my seat in a movie theater at 13 years old to tell a couple of boys about my age to “cut the crap” when they began loudly cracking homophobic remarks about one of the actors on screen. A few years later I’d insist on challenging my parents’ view that our family was perfect and everything was “fine,” upending the status quo of valuing facades over feelings.

So, growing up I was the one to make people smile—or to startle startle them.

Now, as a teacher of poetry for teen mothers in a crime- and poverty-ridden inner city, and as a dreamworker and a writer, as well as the mother of a grown daughter, and the daughter of an ailing mother, I sometimes feel at a loss to answer the question of my life’s purpose. I feel pulled in so many directions, it’s difficult to find the through line.

But when I look back at what I’ve written here, I see that my early job description: To make people smile—and perhaps to startle them, too, isn’t so far off. These are the elements of waking up, after all aren’t they? And waking people up is the job of a teacher, writer, and dreamworker (not to mention a mother!)

Whether we wake up to our dreams, wake up within our dreams, or wake up to the lives we’re living, these are the key elements: We startle out of our dreams or startle awake within them; then we smile to realize we are present and aware, awake and alive to the adventure. As a teacher, a writer, and a family member, these are the things I do. You might even say, that’s my purpose.

Come to think of it—that’s what a good cup of coffee does, too!

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Your Turn: Look at your life as if it is a dream. Can you name your overall purpose—within your relationships, your work, and your spiritual life? Try to narrow it down to a few words or a short phrase: In this dream of my life, my purpose is _____________.

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S’News of the Day: A Lucid Lesson in Self-Love

After trying for over a week to have a lucid dream, I finally succeeded…

Typically I have a lucid dream once or twice a month without trying. If I want to have a dream in which I know that I’m dreaming, I usually achieve my goal after a night or two of setting my intention in that direction.

In this case, the frustration of not succeeding helped to make the night of lucidity all the more instructive.

Here’s what happened:

After a few nights of vivid, clear, but not technically lucid dreaming, I decided to pick up a book on the subject to strengthen my intentions. One of the things the authors wrote, and that I say again and again in the dream classes I teach, is that everything in the dream is an aspect of yourself. Nothing new there. But thinking about this in terms of lucid dreaming was interesting to me, because I and other lucid dreamers, including the authors of the book I was reading, experience other characters and locations in their dreams as autonomous and objective in nature. For example, multiple lucid dreamers might discover the same physical location in a dream, unlike anything any of them have visited in waking life. Likewise, dream characters in lucid scenarios often assert their autonomy, displaying opinions and desires that are separate from the dreamer’s.Field Guide to LD

So, I fell asleep thinking about this conundrum. If everything in the lucid dream is an aspect of myself, what does that say about those autonomous-seeming characters? How can they be so clearly ruled by a separate set of desires, thoughts, and ideas, and still be part of me?

After sleeping for about six hours I woke and re-set my intentions hoping to capitalize on the next and longest REM cycle of the night. I had a cold and woke at about 5:30 in the morning feeling sicker than when I’d gone to sleep. Feeling defeated and discouraged I re-set my intention to not only have a lucid dream, but to have a healing lucid dream as well.

Lucid at last!Healing Card

Sure enough, when I fell back into sleep, I became lucid. I managed to remember my intention, when in the dream, standing in my kitchen I realized I was dreaming. First I did some floating, flying and shape-shifting. then I stood still and gathered up a ball of energy to symbolize and focus my question: “What one thing will support my healing right now?” I directed my question to the wisest teachers I could think of. Pema Chodron and Swami Vishnudevananda’s images and names came to me, and I immediately received a response. “Self Love!” they said as if in unison.

The beauty of the dream was that they didn’t just say to words, they demonstrated them … on me. I was immediately swept up into an embrace of love swirling around my heart. The feeling was simultaneously so tender and strong that I was moved to tears and filled with happiness. “Of course!” I said in response. “Thank you.”

Okay, but what’s the S’News?IMG_1540

When I woke I basked in the glow from the night’s dreams. Then, as always, when I look at a dream, I asked myself, “What was the ‘News’ from the dream?”

Truth is, I’ve been on a self-growth, self-improvement, and healing path since I was a pre-teen reading Ann Landers’ columns in Newsday and taking personality quizzes in Seventeen Magazine. I went on to become a devotee of Louise Hay, Pema Chodron, Belleruth Naparstek, Byron Katie, and numerous other self-help teachers. So yes, I know (as you do, too) that Self-Love is the foundation for any healing. No news there.

What was new, however, was being wrapped in the intensified feeling of pure self-love. This was an unconditional embrace of acceptance and goodness beyond anything I’ve felt awake. This alone was extraordinary.

But there’s more. The question I went into sleep with returned to me in the morning as I pondered the dream.

If everything in the dream is part of me, and yet autonomous, then to love myself, I need to love everything in the dream, whether it’s a direct projection of my mind or something I perceive as separate.

Then I realized that the same is true awake. Philosophers tell us we are all connected. Again, as a yoga practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, meditator and dream teacher, none of this is news either. But when someone says something I deem to be stupid or behaves in a way I think is ridiculous, I have trouble accepting that this person, too, is a part of me—and I’m certainly not inclined to love them.

Enter the dream’s newsflash: It is no different to accept the seemingly contradictory facts that everyone and everything in the lucid dream is part of myself—even the parts that seem wholly independent; than it is to accept that everyone and everything on this planet is part of me.

And so, to love myself I need to love everyone and everything. I need to love. Period. There is no other way to truly love “my” Self.

Yes, yes, I know, that is much easier said than done. And just as with the practice of lucid dreaming, I know I will miss the mark more often than I achieve it. But it’s good to know what I’m aiming for.

And it’s good to remember that while I sleep dreams teach directly to the heart to reinforce the lessons I read in a book awake and understand only in my head.

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Q&A: How Do I Make This (Recurring) Dream Stop?

Q: I have the same dream again and again. What can you tell me about recurring dreams? Why do we have them and is there a way to get the dream to stop repeating itself?

Signed,

Stuck on Replay

 

A: Dear Stuck,

Stop me if I’ve told you this one before …

I have a good friend, let’s call her Ann. Some years back, she was beginning to drive me up the wall. Every time we spoke she’d tell me the same story again and again.

It got to the point where I dreaded seeing her number turn up on my caller ID. If I didn’t love her so much, I might have just stopped picking up the phone. But because I truly care about her I stoically answered her calls, and then I griped to another friend (again and again, I might add) about how tired I was of Ann repeating herself.

This pattern wasn’t helping anyone, except maybe the folks at ATT&T who were pocketing the money we three spent as we racked up minutes on our phone bills.

This, Dear Replay, is exactly what’s going on with you and your dreams. Dreaming, is in essence, a conversation. Depending on your belief system, it’s a conversation between parts of yourself; between you and God; or between you and universal consciousness. Whatever the case, it’s an important relationship worthy of at least as much attention as my relationship with my pal Ann. So, like me, you have a couple of choices:

1) You can prop the phone against your ear and let Ann go on and on like a broken record, while you troll the Internet for the best deal on those cowgirl boots you’ve been coveting.

2) Or, you can step away from the laptop and enter into a meaningful conversation with her about what she is saying and why she feels the need to repeat herself.

The fact that you’re writing to me implies that you really do care, so Option 1 really isn’t an option at all. I care about Ann, too, so here’s what I did:

The next time she launched into her spiel I said, “Ann, I feel like maybe I haven’t been a good listener because I notice that each time we talk you tell me the same story. Is there something you’re not getting from me that you need on this subject?”

Ann paused, then told me she just really needed me to hear her and to validate what she was feeling. So, I asked her to tell me the story one more time. This time I really listened. I asked her questions and took a genuine interest. And guess what? After that we were able to move onto new subject matter.

And that’s what you need to do with your recurring dream. Show the dream you’re really paying attention. Write the dream down. Consider each part of it with a curious, open attitude. Talk the dreams over with a loved one or therapist, or bring it to a dream group. Ask yourself: What has this dream come to tell me?

Chances are, if you give the dream your full attention, one of two things will happen: Either, it will go away, or it will change.

If it goes away and fresh dreams arrive in its stead, good for you. This is a sign that you got the message and addressed the issue the dream was raising for you.

If the dream changes; good for you, too. This is a signal that you are making progress. Keep working with the dream, paying close attention to any alterations in the repeating pattern. You may even start to welcome the reappearance of this dream theme, because the ways it changes will give you clues as to where your daytime attitudes and actions need tweaking.

Give it a try and let me know how it turns out. And I promise to listen closely, so you won’t have to repeat yourself.

Dreamily yours,

Tz…

…zzZZZZzzzzzzz

PS: My dreams repeat themselves almost as much as I do! Read more about recurring dreams here.

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Want to learn more about your dreams? Contact me to find out about upcoming dream groups in western Massachusetts, or individual dream sessions by phone, Skype, or in person.

Have a Dream Question? Send it along! I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Q&A: Help … I See Dead People – In My Dreams

Q: What is the significance of dreaming about someone who has died?

Signed,

Mourning Dreams

 

A: Dear Mourning,

Back when I was 21, I woke from a dream that my Grandpa George was standing in front of a bank of elevators wearing the same rumpled trench coat he wore the last time I saw him. He was upset and asking me for help.

I sat up in a bed I’d built myself, in the second-floor apartment of a drafty old farmhouse in the college town where I still live. Back then I worked part-time in a Greek bakery and was finishing my undergraduate degree. In my spare time I rode on the back of someone’s motorcycle looking for the next adventure. In short: helping the people who I still thought of in that lofty category of “adult” was the last thing on my mind. And helping an adult who was, well, dead? Honestly, I wasn’t interested.

But in the few months since I’d stood beside my father at my grandfather’s grave as my relatives took turns shoveling dirt over his plain pine coffin, I had seen Grandpa George several times. In each dream he was disturbed, disheveled, and asking me for help.

The dreams become frequent and frightening enough that I mentioned them to a friend who suggested I speak to a medium. I needed help from the world beyond, she told me.

As a child, I’d had séances and worked the Ouija board with my friends until we were too scared to sleep. I thought I’d outgrown all that. And anyway, I couldn’t figure out why, if he needed help in the Great Beyond, my grandfather would be picking on me—rather than his wife, his two adult children, or one of his four grandchildren who’d recently graduated college. I decided that Grandpa’s spirit must have gone around to each of us while we slept, trying to get our attention. And I, the last in line, must have somehow left my dreaming mind’s door ajar. And in he came.

Grandpa’s visitations upset me in part because they revealed that my dreams were not just my own creations. Not to mention that they were inconvenient—and costly to boot. If I were to follow my friend’s advice and see a psychic medium, I’d need forty dollars to pay the fee. On my minimum wage salary, that seemed a princely sum.

The money, it turned out, was well spent. The medium found a spirit helper to work with my grandfather, and after that I didn’t see him in my dreams for some time. When he appeared again he was back to his cheerful, tidy old self.

My grandmother died some years later. She visits me in my dreams, too. The last time she was standing at the edge of a golf course; short, hunch-shouldered, and smiling broadly, just as I remembered her—except now she was wearing a loud pink pantsuit and a pair of over-sized black sunglasses that made her look like a comedienne from a late-night spoof. But she has never asked anything of me.

Older now, and wiser myself, I wouldn’t mind a bit, even if she did.

Yes, yes, I’ve done it again. I’ve gone on and on about me and have offered so little to you. But that’s okay, because you knew the answer to your question before you even wrote it down.

You see, Dear Mourning, you already know, as I do, that our dreams of deceased relatives and friends are worthy of our attention. Sometimes they offer comfort; sometimes they reignite our longing. They can be an opportunity to tie up loose ends or an invitation to remember and reminisce. Sometimes they are no more complicated than a cup of tea with an old pal. Other times, action is required.

You know you don’t need to interpret these dreams, but simply to experience them, and to continue to love—or learn to love—those who have left this world.

So how can I help? I can give you permission to believe what you already know about your dreams.

Permission granted.

Dreamily yours,

Tz…

…zzZZZZzzzzzzz

Want to learn more about your dreams? Contact me to find out about upcoming dream groups in western Massachusetts, or individual dream sessions by phone, Skype, or in person.

Have a Dream Question? Send it along! I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science Confirm The Healing Power of Dreams

“An unremembered dream is like an unopened letter from God.”

The average person dreams from four to seven times every night. That means that by the age of 80, they will have had between 116,800 and 204,400 dreams. However, most people are confused and mystified by their dreams, and as a result they largely ignore them. When asked why they don’t pay attention to their dreams, many say dreams are too complicated to understand, or that most of their dreams are nonsensical at best and disturbing at worst.

But while dreams may have fallen out of favor in modern Western cultures, people around the world have long known that dreams can help them in down-to-earth, practical matters. In fact, an ancient quote posits that, “An unremembered dream is like an unopened letter from God.”

This traditional wisdom, is now backed by scientific research. Dreams have been shown to help with everything from emotional regulation to increased creativity. And studies show that working with dreams in a therapeutic environment can help people gain insight into problems and issues as well as heal from the loss of a loved one, or recurring nightmares caused by trauma.

In addition, dreamwork promotes concrete, positive changes based on deep understanding of the dream. People from all walks of life, from artists to scientists, have credited dreams with major inspirations and breakthroughs. And everyday people regularly receive guidance about physical health, interpersonal relationships, professional problems, and more through working with their dreams.

As a Certified Dream Therapist and as an individual who has benefited greatly from my dreams for years, I am passionate about helping others learn to listen to and understand their dreams. Toward that end, I am offering discounted dreamwork sessions (in person, by phone or Skype) all summer long, as well as a new ongoing “Listening to Dreams” workshop series that begins on Aug. 20th. For information on individual dreamwork consultations or workshops, please visit me at CLINIC Alternative Medicines or view my web site http://www.thirdhousemoon.com.

 

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Q&A: Working to Understand Dreams

Q: Do you have any suggestions for how I can work to better understand the messages contained within my dreams?

Signed,

Seeking Understanding

A: Dear Seeking,

Did you know that in my other life I’m a poetry teacher? Yes, I teach teen mothers, and other young adults and adults in literacy programs. My students have had a wide range of educational experiences—well, not such a wide range, really. Their experiences range along a narrow band of really bad encounters with the public school system. They have a great deal of trouble spelling some of the most basic vocabulary words, like through and maybe, and knee. And it’s my job to introduce them to the works of Rosetti and Whitman, Plath, and Poe.

I had no formal training in how to be a teacher when I first set foot in a classroom, so I stood clutching my folder of poems before a room full of teens whose babies were downstairs in the daycare, or whose pregnant bellies peeked out from of the unbuttoned waistbands of their jeans.

I decided right away to skip the whole “what do does this poem mean?” discussion. Shakespeare’s “wandering bark,” Dickinson’s “mechanical feet” going round on their “wooden way” were baffling to my students—as they were to me the first several times I read them. Instead I asked: “What does this poem make you feel?” and then “Oh, really? What in the poem makes you feel that way?” After a while I might press further: “Any idea why someone would have written about all this stuff?”

Oh, but you were asking about how to work with the messages in your dreams, right? I guess it was that word work that got me thinking about teaching, because that’s technically what I do for work. And work is hard and I don’t want to work, I want time to play and experience life. And I definitely don’t want poetry to turn into work. Poetry is mystical and mysterious and beautiful and totally accessible as long as no one asks me what it means and as long as I don’t ask anyone what it means.

So, to answer your question, Dear Seeker: Put your feet up, get yourself a drink with a paper umbrella in it. Stop working so hard. A dream isn’t something to decipher like a message tapped out in Morse Code; it’s the creative musings of your inner poet wooing you with sweet somethings.

But you want to know what it’s saying? So, listen.

Z Tell someone your dream. Your cat will do if there’s no one else around, and if there is no cat, talk your dream into the voice recorder on your phone. Let the images, the colors, the quality of the light, and the sense of movement in the dream wash over you. Notice how you feel. Which parts make you anxious? Which parts make you sigh? Where in your body do you feel it? Let yourself sink into a state of wonder. Allow your curiosity to be piqued. Marvel at the view.

Z Write the dream down, slowly. That’s another way to listen deeply. Grab some color pencils or crayons and sketch it. Wait for the message to unfurl like a morning glory opening to the sun.

Z That might be enough …. but if not … go ahead and dive into each image. Associate and amplify to your heart’s content.

 Z Find a dream group or a dream therapist. (Okay, that’s a little shameless self-promotion there, but a dream therapist has to eat, too, right?).

Z And since I am, after all, a poetry teacher…why not try writing a poem from your dream. You can find instructions elsewhere on this blog by clicking here.

Dreamily yours,

Tz…

…zzZZZZzzzzzzz

Want to learn more about your dreams? Contact me to find out about upcoming dream groups in western Massachusetts, or individual dream sessions by phone, Skype, or in person.

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The Gift of Dreams*

At age 13, I received a gift from my grandfather: several books including a paperback copy of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. He gave it to me because he knew how much I loved dreams, but it was too difficult for me—or maybe it just wasn’t saying what I wanted to hear about dreams.

Freud

I danced around my interest in dreams for decades. Sometimes I’d pay attention to mine and write every one down. Then I’d go through periods of trying to ignore them. After all, no one else I knew was talking about their dreams, and besides, some of my dreams were scary or disturbing. But they were still present, even in their absence. Whereas some people claim they don’t dream in color, I feel I don’t live in color when my dreams are muted.

So, eventually I decided I wanted to know more about them. About a decade ago, I gave myself another gift: I ordered Robert Van De Castle’s Our Dreaming Mind from a new age book-of-the-month club. But my life got busy, and the book remained on a shelf for a good five years, maybe more, until my daughter grew up and moved on to college, and I had time to work my way through the encyclopedic tome, chapter by chapter. I then moved on to the works of Moss, Johnson, Jung, and everything else about dreams I could get my hands on.

I have since made a bold a commitment to not just learn about dreams but to dive into them. From 2009-2011 I was enrolled in a dream studies certification program, and now I help other people understand the gifts of their dreams. This commitment to dreams, and the time I’ve carved out in my life for studying dreams, working with them, and helping others get in touch with theirs, has been a great gift, for which I am most grateful.

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A thank you note to my Grandpa Ben dated July 1976. It reads: “Thank you also for the Freud books. They are a challenge to read, but they are also very interesting.”

Thank you Grandpa, for the gift of your love, and for encouraging me to follow my dreams.

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RIP Grandpa & Aunt Essie.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bedtime Stories.”

What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?

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*Corner View* is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. This week’s theme is “Gifts”. 

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To unwrap the nightly gift of your own dreams, consider giving yourself a time to pay attention to them.   Visit my blog atThird House Moon to learn more.  The gift of dreams keeps on giving.

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