“sweet dreams are made of these…”
Did you ever have a dream that was so vivid, so sensual that you could practically taste it? That’s what Laurie’s dream of honey was like – filled with drippy sweetness, full of the senses, like in the e.e. cummings poem “…tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, breathing…” And the fact that she is a consummate storyteller, and acted it out spontaneously while telling made it that much more delicious.
Fall always feels like the real New Year to me, rather than January 1st: we go back to school, back to work from our summer vacations. The air subtly shifts its smell and texture from salty and hot to leafy and crisp, and many celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It is called a time of “tsuvah”- of turning, or returning (“tshuv” means turn or return). It is about renewal, reconciliation, re-commitment, and embracing the sweetness of life. Traditionally, apple slices dipped in honey are eaten at the New Year so that we may embody the sweetness of our hopes and dreams for the coming year.
There’s an old saying: Once is an accident, twice is a co-incidence, and three times is a pattern we should be paying attention to. I’ve been gifted with honey 3 times recently, and wanted to re-gift you with the sweetness. 1. A week ago I fell in love with a new kind of honey paste- a thick slightly gritty semi-solid form that tastes and feels like it is still part of a hive. I’m sure it’s been around for a long time, but it was new to me. 2. A colleague in my study group in Newton owns hives (is that the proper term- is “a beekeeper” more correct?) and showed up 2 days ago with a gift jar of her hives honey for each of us. 3. My friend shared the following dream with us the next night.
Laurie’s dream: I am rushing around doing very busy things, teaching my class, preparing notes. Then over there is this very large clear glass jar, like the kind used at banquets containing slices of orange or lemon and water, that is filled with honey. The spigot seems to be open, so it is dripping the thick golden honey. I don’t see a container, so I rush over and put my hand under the jar to catch the honey. Rushing back to my busyness over here, rushing to catch honey over there. Rushing back again to busyness over here, then rushing back again to catch the sweet sticky honey in my hands over there. Finally I stop and just catch the honey.
Listening to this dream I was so excited that I could barely restrain myself from making comments or asking questions. Luckily, Laurie was both entertaining enough, and insightful enough, that I managed to just say something simple, like “How wonderful- you were catching sweetness with both hands”. She told us that the messages she had already received from the dream were about the importance of slowing down the busyness, even stopping what we are doing, in order to catch the sweetness of life, and that her students bring such sweetness to her class that part of her job was to catch and appreciate it. As Freud says about dream symbols, sometimes a cigar is “just a cigar”.
A message in mindfulness for us all. May you all be blessed with a double handful of sweetness in your new year.
“I told my therapist I was having nightmares about nuclear explosions. He said don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world” Jay London
Understanding the meaning of our dreams can move us in surprising directions. The art of interpreting or understanding a dream has been referred to in several ways: working on the dream, dream tending, dream exploration, dream journeying, and unpacking the dream. All imply mining the dream for treasures from our emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, and/or neuro-anatomical selves (yes, I just made up that last phrase in order to differentiate our innate biology from the particular neurological wiring that is part of REM sleep.) I like all the phrasings at different times and for different purposes. I am particularly fond of the term “unpacking” (from Jung) however, because I like the metaphor of unpacking a tightly packed suitcase, one piece at a time; examining each item as we unpack it until we have emptied the suitcase of our dream of all of the baggage that was in it.
That reminds me of a therapist cartoon (my favorite kind- you gotta be able to laugh at yourself in this biz) in which an airline counter attendant is presiding over a counter labeled “emotional baggage check-in”. He asks the prospective traveler “Has your baggage been with you at all times?” to which she replies “Unfortunately, yes.” He then asks, “Has anyone asked you to carry anything?” To which she responds, “You have no idea how many times!”
Having referenced the process of unpacking a dream many times over the last few years of this blog, I though it might be fun and perhaps enlightening to see how this process unfolded for one of my dreams. So to begin with, my disclaimer: I don’t usually have toilet dreams. Some people do, and when that symbol re-emerges for them, it’s “OK, here it is again!” So I laughed as I recorded this one, and wondered right away about the significance, since it was unusual for my dream lexicon.
The dream: “I have to use the bathroom and the toilet is dirty. I gingerly clean it up as best I can, and use it. It still overflows a bit. My colleague M is waiting for me.” I title the dream “Dirty Toilet”. At this point I just let the title emerge, I don’t really know what it means yet.
Before working on the dream with my dream circle, I listed my own initial association: my colleague “M”, who I hadn’t seen in quite a while had recently participated in a dream retreat day I held. That was all I got at first, since my alarm rang and I had to rush off to my day. A few days later my dream circle began asking me questions: “Any practical plumbing problems?” (No) “Any health related ‘plumbing’ issues?” (No). Since my initial association was to my work life, one friend asked, “Are you feeling overwhelmed or over-flowing in any way at work?” This one hit for me – “Yes”- here’s my first “aha”. (Significantly, this friend frequently has dreams related to her own work – and I usually don’t -, so her resonance with my dream followed her own associations).
My first association to that question was to the larger than usual number of workshops I had been preparing for recently – although I love to teach, I am feeling a bit “over-flowing” with all the preparation. The next association I have is to doing some dream work with a particular person, let’s call her Polly, – something resonates here too.
I then ask myself – OK, what is the central image (thanks to Ernest Hartman of blessed memory for this concept) in this dream? – The toilet.
So using the Gestalt method, I asked myself, “If I am the toilet, what do I need?” Speaking as the toilet itself (yes, we do that in dreamwork!), the answer was “I need to enlarge my bowl, to enlarge the container to be able to hold everything that gets dumped in here without overflowing and making a mess on your shoes”. Now we’re getting somewhere. I could feel the rightness of that answer in my bones. Becoming the object in my dream allowed me to have a perspective about my work with Polly that I hadn’t had before. Another “aha”, 2 fold this time: 1.) Part of my work was to help Polly to enlarge her own Self capacity to be able to hold the pain in her life without overflowing, and 2.) I also needed to enlarge my own Presence and capacity as I sit with her to safely contain her and her work.
Now I associate to a Buddhist teaching tale- (stick with it, the connection will emerge): A woman who had lost her child was in deep despair, and after months of wandering she approached the Buddha and asked for help. “Oh Enlightened One, I am suffering so much with the loss of my son- can you help me?” He replies, “Of course, my dear. But first, you must walk throughout the land and bring me word of at least one being that has not experienced suffering in their life; that is the first step. Now go, and come back to me with that information.”
So the woman goes back and walks for days and weeks and months, and everywhere she goes, she finds one who has lost a child, or a parent, or their leg, or their crops, or their home – on and on. Finally she returns to the Buddha and says “Oh Enlightened One, I have searched and searched, and I cannot find anyone who has not had some suffering in his or her life.” The Buddha responds “Exactly right. Every being at birth is given 10,00 measures of joy, and 10,000 measures of sorrow. The difference between a life of joy and a life of suffering is the size of the container we hold them in.” He went on to offer the woman a cup of water into which he put a large spoonful of salt. “Taste it”, he said. “It is salty” she replied. Then they went down to the lake. The Buddha put the same large spoonful of salt into the lake, the scooped up a cup of the lake water for the woman to taste. “It tastes sweet and fresh”, she said. Same salt, same water. Difference is the size of the container.
May all your containers be large enough to hold all they need.
treehouse at moonlight by poetico
(In our dreams) “We encounter a whole family of aspects of ourselves, and as we recognize them and bring them together, we become much more than we were”
In the last post we talked about visits from the other side; when our loved ones cross the threshold of worlds and grace us with a visit via our waking or sleeping dreams. We also have people that we know show up in our dreams who are quite fully alive however, whether or not we have seen them recently.
There seem to be four main categories of the non-visitation type of dream about people we know:
- They may come as themselves,
- They may come as a symbolic stand-in for some one else,
- They may appear as an archetype (a Jungian term for an embodiment of a primordial image or character that reoccurs in thought and dream; Jung believed these are universal and reside in the collective unconscious that we share as a species),
- They may represent an aspect of ourselves (a self part that we need to befriend, or heal, or reclaim) that is highlighted by our dreaming mind as a separate character.
We also know that dreams can have several layers of simultaneous meaning (see post of 8/12), so your dad, or your boss, or your friend Nancy may be in your dream for more than one reason. This is why doing dreamwork with others is so crucial; we can’t see all our own layers at once, and could miss something important without the extra set or sets of eyes and ears.
Before getting into the above four categories, I want to be sure to also alert us to the very fun/punny word play aspect of people in our dreams. Sometimes it is the characters name, or a play-on-words of their name that is the significance, rather than the person themselves. For example, a colleague dreamt of a set of luggage that was called Mr. Hartman luggage. After some discussion of who Mr. Hartman was, some one noticed that it could also be heard as “heart man”; and then we moved into a useful conversation about the man of her heart and how that was related to her dream. Dreaming of Aunt Missy may have several layers of meaning; one of which may be are you “missing” something, or is something “missing” in your life?
So, let’s take Aunt Missy as the character who showed up in your dream to explore these potential layers. Here are some questions you can ask to see how many of the four categories she falls into; not excluding that she may have been visiting if she had passed over to give you a message of some time, or just to say “Hi sweetie!”
If she has come as herself, we might be wondering:
•Who is Aunt Missy to you?
•What is your relationship with her like? Is she a confidant, your second mother, a source of tension on holidays?
•Do you have any unfinished business with her?
•What was your last encounter with her like?
If she has come as a symbolic stand-in, we might be wondering:
•Is she from your mother or father’s side of the family, and what does that say about why she is there in your dream?
•What are the qualities or characteristics of Aunt Missy; and do any of these resonate for you about yourself or some one important in your life?
•What does she look like? Does she remind you of anyone?
•What was she doing in the dream? How do you connect with that?
If she is an archetype, or larger than life symbol, we might notice:
•Does she have any numinous or spiritual quality about her in the dream?
•Is she dressed in an unusual way that connects you to thought of something sacred (i.e. in a white dress, or a long hooded cape)
•What is the quality of your interaction with her in the dream? Does she seem to have a message for you?
• Does she seem to embody one of the primal archetypes, such as the Wise Woman, The Mother, The Witch, The Shadow??
As an aspect or part of your self that you may recognize:
• Is Aunt Missy controlling?
• Struggling with a family member?
• Too passive?
• High -spirited?
• The center of her home?
With all of these potential layers, take a look at what the character is doing in the dream, and how you are interacting with her. What is the emotional resonance as well?
This is really fun to do with famous people as well! If Madona showed up in your dream- you can have a field day! Is it about sexuality? Or holiness? (in relation to Jesus) Or purity? Or strong powerful women? Or judgement of any of these parts? Of yourself? Of others? Of a tension between your inner Goddess, your sexual self, and your early religious training? A part of you that wants expression? Are you “mad”-(ona)? Is there a “don” in your life? Have fun with it.
These questions are just meant to start you off, please add your own as well to get acquainted with the people in your dreams! As always, let me know how this goes for you.
“I dream my paintings, and then I paint my dreams.”
Vincent Van Gogh
I had been thinking about the importance of color in dreams for a while. However, when every dream that I recalled for the last two weeks had a significant spot of color, I knew that was a sign- fingers to the keyboard! We don’t always notice whether or not we dream in color, unless something jumps out at us as we are writing or remembering the dream. As we recall the dream, we may suddenly be struck by, (as I was last night) a very bright blue necklace. This symbol has been gracing my dreams off and on for years, and I am still discovering it’s many layers of meaning. Uncovering the significance of the colors in your dreams can add an important layer of emotional resonance that may otherwise be missed, or misinterpreted.
Take a moment; close your eyes, and see this: The feathery chartreuse yellow/green of new meadow grass tinged with whispy pink blossoms; like an Ansel Adams photograph, in soft focus.
See this: The brilliant blue stone about two inches long; a cross between a lapis and a turquoise, shimmering with the colors of both the Caribbean and the cobalt blue Adriatic seas, set in finely wrought silver filigree.
See this: The silver bullet of a plane, hard and metallic, leaving a trail of white herringbone streaks across the sky.
See this: The peering yellow eyes that pop out of the darkness; just the eyes, just the yellow, surrounding you, as you sit at your campfire in the dark forest.
The colors in our dreams add a dimension of emotional resonance, a layer of the creative muse, a focal point calling our attention: “Look at this! Don’t miss this!” When an otherwise nondescript color scheme in a dream suddenly pops with a notable splash of color, this splash is often pointing our attention to a central image in the dream.
Our brains are hard-wired to resonate emotionally with different colors. The color red, which excites our autonomic nervous system, can fire us up with associations to danger, excitement, and/or passion. The color blue calms the autonomic nervous system, and is associated with serenity, calm, peacefulness. Robert Hoss, in his book Dream Language, points out that this all happens below the threshold of our awareness, yet has a profound affect on our emotional state. In addition to some universal or instinctive responses to colors, we also have ingrained in our subconscious a whole set of cultural and personal associations to colors. These come from our myths, our literature, our families, our language, our personal histories, our cultures.
Therefore, paying attention to the colors in our dreams can not only add emotional richness to our understanding, but also significantly alter the meaning we make out of the dream.
It can be fun and informative to make a color wheel of your personal color connections when you have color in your dream. Write the color in the middle of a page, draw a circle around it, and then make spokes out from it like a child’s drawing of a sun. Then, without censoring, or even thinking about your actual dream image, just write down your associations to the color itself. For example, when I think of yellow, I make my circle and write the words canary, yellow-bellied (cowardice), cheerful, sunshine, the yellow brick road, bright, jaundiced. I then go back to the image in the dream, and circle the ones that somehow seem related to this dream. You can see how dreaming of a yellow sweater would have a very different significance if my associations were cheerful and bright, as opposed to cowardly or sickly.
What follows is an abridged version of the Luscher Color Association chart (a psychological profiling tool) and some common emotional responses (thanks again to Bob Hoss). This is not meant to be a complete list; you can add your own associations.
Red: active, aggressive, joy, passion, danger, power, hot, “stop”
Orange: friendly, warm, active, enthusiastic, autumn, harvest
Yellow: cheerful, spontaneous, alert, positive, prosperity, “caution”
Green: nature, youthfulness, spring, growth, money, safety, “go”
Blue: calm, serenity, fulfillment, tranquility, unity, tenderness
Violet: mystic union, sensitivity, high class, sensuality, luxury, magic
Brown: earth, comfort, warmth, roots
Grey: uncommitted, uninvolved, shielding of self
Black: evil, nothingness, extinction, our shadow side, formal, unknown
White: purity, innocence, peace, light, goodness, holiness
Pink: romantic, love, soft, gentleness
Gold/Silver: the sun and the moon, value, psychological integration, wealth
Back to that blue stone: That stone has been following me around in my dreams for years, and it has become a touchstone (yes, pun intended); a mythic sorcerers stone; a connection to the breastplate of Aaron the high priest (Moses’ brother), with it’s 12 gemstones, that could be used to foretell the signs, and finally; to deep seas and deep emotions. My “dream action” (from the blog of 10/1/12, the final step in Robert Moss’s Lighting Dream Work) lead me on a search for this stone. I finally found it years after the original dream in the shuk in Jerusalem. This was my first trip back in 27 years, after having lived there for 5 years in the late 70’s. With both the visit and finding the stone, I reclaimed a missing piece of myself. So, color me blue: the “true blue” of unification of pieces of my life that had become separated.
“Sweet dreams are made of these…”
Welcome to the dog days of summer,
Summer time- this one’s just for fun. I started thinking about how many different ways we use the word “dream” in our language. This little word can have so many different meanings—so versatile! It seems that we are fascinated with this whole concept of “dream states”, and use the concept for a variety of feelings and ideas. The most common meaning for the word “dream” is of course the kind we have at night, but the word is used to refer to so many things I thought it might be fun just to look at them. I invite you to add to the list.
The origin of the word “dream” in the English language is from the Middle English “dreem” (1050) and originally meant joy, mirth, and gladness. In Hebrew the word for dream is “chalom” (rhymes with shalom), and it means both dream and vision depending on how it is used, and the context of the usage. The bible has translated the same word differently according to who was speaking. Joseph and Solomon were said to have “dreams”, while Elijah and Moses were said to have “visions”. Martin Luther King had a dream “…I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed…that all men are created equal.” This was his vision for the future; we can hope that he was prophetic in this.
So, we have night dreams, we have visionary dreams, and we have “day dreams”. We have day-dreams while we are awake, and our mind is taking a little trip on it’s own away from wherever we actually are. Daydreaming has been used to refer to simply looking out the window and “spacing out”, and also to “wool gathering” or musing on our own more interesting thoughts or fantasies instead of paying attention to whatever is happening in the room right now.
Then there is the concept of dreams as “wishful thinking”- as in, “I’ve been dreaming of going to Greece for over 20 years.” Related, but slightly different, is dream as what you aspire to; a strongly desired goal or cherished ambition as in “I’ve always dreamed of touring with a rock band” as you practice your guitar riffs. Realizing these ambitions and satisfying a wish are also referred to as a “dream come true”. And what is “the American dream” anyway? Westward expansion? a house in the suburbs?, making it big? What is your dream–do you have a dream garden, or a dream vacation, or a dream date?
My daughter was given an assignment in her English class to write about what is meant by the idea of “dreams deferred” while studying the book “A Raison in the Sun”. Mama’s dream in the book is to have a nice house with a garden; Walter wants to be the man of the house, and Bethena dreams of becoming a doctor- something which a black southern girl of that era could “only dream of”.
On the other side of the spectrum, the word dream is also used to refer to bunk, garbage, a waste of time, as in “Stop dreaming- that will never happen”, “It’s just a pipe dream” or “Stop dreaming and do your homework.” In this category may also be the concept of being unrealistic, or suffering delusions “You’re just dreaming- snap out of it”. It is interesting to me that the same word is used to refer to very opposite concepts and ideas- why do you think this is so? If some one is “living in a dream world” is that a positive or negative thing? “Dreams” and “hallucinations” are sometimes used interchangeably.
Then we have perfection, or “It’s too good to be true” (as in “This is my dream job)”, a beautiful love object (“He‘s so dreamy”) and something that works very well and smoothly (as in “It runs like a dream). When we imagine something that may be beyond our present reach, we are said to be dreaming about it (“You’re just dreaming”). On the contrary, when there is something we would never do, we say “I wouldn’t dream of it.” “Dreamy images” are usually vague or blurry.
And just think of the songs with dream in their title, or part of the words!: “Daydream Believer” (The Monkeys), “…Whenever I want you all I have to do, is dream a little dream-of you…” (Everly Brothers), “Last night I had the strangest dream, I ever had before, I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war…” (I think maybe by Arlo Guthrie), “California Dreaming” (The Mamas and the Papas) “Oh What a Day for a Daydream” (The Lovin Spoonful), “Day Dreaming “ (Aretha Franklin), “Dream Lover” (Bobby Darin), “Dream On” (Aerosmith), “In Your Wildest Dreams” (Tina Turner w/ Barry White), “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” (Stevie Wonder), ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Eurythmics), “Sweet Dreams’ (Beyonce), “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry), “Dreamlover” (Mariah Carey), “Dreams” (van Halen) and so on and on and on…
I bet you can you add to the list.
And sometimes we are able to succeed “beyond our wildest dreams”.