by: Carla Golembe
Life is a dream walking, death is a going home. (Chinese proverb)
First, I have to tell you about the painting. My friend Carla is an artist; when her beloved cat Zippy died, she promised him that she would paint him. Here he is, visiting her in her dreamtime, as well as getting top billing in this post. The title of this painting is “Forever Friends”.
I just realized that my first dream visitation came from my cat. I wonder if it is easier for animals to cross over these thresholds, since they do not seem limited by our view of what is “real” or not. My cat Aeshie (whose name came to me in a dream) often acted as my co-therapist, a grey Buddha in a fur suit. She would come down to my office and do therapy with me (when she felt like it- she was still a cat, after all). She seemed to have an innate knowing of just who needed their leg rubbed, or to have a cat in their lap, at just the right moment.
If we allow ourselves to suspend our own disbelief in the possibility of multiple realities, we can experience great comfort and connection when our departed human beloveds visit us in our dreamworlds. Many people I know who have lost a loved one say that they have had a sense that their dad or grandma visited them in a dream, but they weren’t sure if they could believe it. Or else they say that they wish they could have a visit, and wonder why mom hasn’t shown up yet. (My first suggestion is to offer the beloved an invitation, as part of the incubation process before going to sleep (see post of 5/14/12 for more on incubating)). Spiritual energy beings seem to be like cats though- they have their own lives (pun intended) and may not come right when we call. Some traditions speak of a time after death when the spirit of the departed needs to get used to the afterlife for a while before being ready to visit back on the earth plane.
Having departed friends or family show up in a dream can have several different meanings, ranging from a message, to a symbol, to a visitation. Their appearance can certainly have more than one meaning simultaneously (see post of 8/28/12 for more on the layers of meaning in a dream).
So how do we tell the difference? Many people say that there is a visceral element in a visit that is not present when the person showing up in the dream is there as a symbol or metaphor. My friend Joyce says that she could feel her mother touch her cheek. Others say that they can feel a sense of being hugged. Nancy had a dream within a dream: she dreamed her beloved husband Peter was kissing her, and that she then woke up (inside the dream) to tell everyone that she had been dreaming of him, and what he said to her. When she actually awakened, she wrote in her journal “I woke feeling so happy, like he had really come to be with me.” There is often a felt sense of presence. When my dad shows up in dreams, I hear his live voice, with the tones and timbre of his speech. My colleague Fran says that she can sometimes feel the soft weight of her cat sleeping on her chest years after his passing.
There seems to be a consensus that an intuitive sense of deep connection is present. There is a sense that the energy of the dreamed loved one is true to the energy of the person who passed. Many people also say that quite often very little else happens in the dream besides the visit. That is, there is not a lot of narrative or story; the visit is the main event.
Finally, my dream circle talked about feelings of awe or joy in these dreams. They almost always feel like what Jung calls “Big Dreams”, often in H. D. – High Def., or Technicolor. Shamanic practice teaches us that sometimes the visit comes in the dream or in waking life in animal form. Whenever my mom or I see a hawk, we always say “Hi Bud”. Often no dream interpretation feels necessary, except to say, “Hi, I love you, nice to see you again” to the visitor and enjoy.
Next time, we’ll look at when Nana or Uncle Joe are there in symbolic form; or have come with a message for our lives.
May you be blessed by enduring connections.
Ps A few of you asked who Bodhisattva was, the dog’s name from the last blog. Merriam-Webster says it is “a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others and is worshipped as a deity in Mayahanya Buddhism.” Now go back and think about that doggie…