All the world’s a stage

All the world's a stage, Jane Teresa Anderson

The moment has come to step out on stage and perform in front of an audience but you haven’t prepared. Worse than this, you know zilch. It’s a common dream theme, and you’ve probably had a variation of it at some point in your life. What did you make of it? How did you relate it to your life? How did it help you to understand yourself more deeply, or to make a change?

Your dream might involve a theatre performance, giving a presentation at work, teaching a class of eager students, delivering your artwork for public exhibition, flying a plane, or any number of situations, all of which come down to you not being able to deliver because you haven’t prepared or don’t know enough.

In a recent dream, I was to play a classical orchestral piece on keyboard. It was to be a solo performance. The auditorium was packed, the audience looked discerning, an anticipatory silence descended, and all eyes were on me, seated at the keyboard at the very centre of the room. Not only had I not studied or practised the piece, but I’m not a musician. I might have been able to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star with one finger, but then again, maybe not. I wondered what to do. I thought I was alone in this, but to my surprise the conductor came into the room, sat opposite me across the keyboard, and held me in her mesmerising gaze. I woke up before playing a note, although now I knew what to do.

Every dream is as unique as every dreamer, so there’s no blanket interpretation that applies to everyone for this kind of dream theme. All dreams reflect your conscious and unconscious experiences of the previous 1-2 days, and it’s most helpful to begin by looking at a dream as a metaphor for what’s been going on for you during those couple of days. Look for the metaphor in your dream. What feels accurate? Where in your life did you feel unprepared? Or was your metaphor more along the lines of over-promising and under-delivering? Or being over-prepared, leaving no room for changing your approach? Or being fearful of judgement? Or feeling you lack talent? You’ll know when you’ve found the connection. You’ll feel a tingly sensation, a kind of knowing, though your logical mind may say, ‘No way!’ Respect the tingly sensation, explore.

There is so much more to dream analysis, but this first step can open your eyes and bless you with new understanding about yourself, your inner world, your unconscious mindset.

My dream reflected the decision I had just made about the new book I’m writing this year, and the last throes of inner conflict about a change of writing approach and style. I came through. By the end of the dream I had resolved the conflict and knew what to do. I woke up feeling confident and energised. I was ready to begin, to place my fingers on my laptop keyboard, to orchestrate words into being.

My previous books were all planned in detail before I began writing. I named chapters, summarised the intended content chapter by chapter, decided upon a style, created a template for each chapter, specified the path I would take to guide readers through a process, or to get my message across. There was rationality in the structure, a solid plan. I was so prepared for each book that I even knew how long it would take me to write. My writing days were planned, x number of writing days at y number of words equals first draft completed by z date. And it worked for each of the six paperback books I have written. Safe within that structure, the actual words I chose were free to find their own expression, as if I were the observer, to surprise me with new twists, insights, metaphors, to write their own examples, to make me smile.

So I have decided on a complete change in approach and style for this new book. I haven’t prepared in my usual ‘classical’ way. I haven’t prepared a structure, marked out days in my diary, plotted the path or even the message. I feel the music. My dream reminded me that some part of me knows how to conduct the flow, to hold my attention in the mesmerised moment. All I need to do is lean into the keyboard and let it flow.

That much I understood at the end of my dream. On the caffeinated wings of my morning coffee, I realised that some part of me is also the musical keyboard in the dream, the instrument or channel for the music, no doubt conducted by my mesmerised in-the-moment intuitive self, free to break free from a pre-planned, logical structure. (Sticking with the metaphor, this may sound like big-noting myself and my abilities, but in dream analysis it’s helpful to look at everything as well as everyone in the dream as representing something about the dreamer.) In short, if I get stuck while I’m writing, I will imagine being the music. This is a form of dream alchemy, moving into a potent dream symbol, giving it – and yourself – more life.

Now, dear discerning audience, there are no big promises here. I may write something wonderful, something inspirational, something profound, or I may write something more akin to a one-fingered rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but whatever it is, I will enjoy the process.

The night before this dream, I dreamed I was on stage performing in a Shakespeare play. Everyone else knew their lines. I didn’t. I hadn’t prepared. But I got by. As I whispered to one of the other actors, “It’s ok, I don’t know the lines, but I know the general gist”. Much to the other actors’ amusement, I reframed Shakespeare’s beautiful poetry to fit the theme, and even had the audience laughing at one point with my Shakespearean puns. I’m sure they were far funnier in my dream, and I would certainly have been booed off the stage in waking life, but, as a precursor to my keyboard dream, it rather fits the bill, don’t you think?

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Episode 161 The Dream Show: How to move past stuck

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How to move past stuck

Is there one area in your life where you feel stuck, or one problem that you can’t fix no matter how many different solutions you try? In this episode we go back to basics to see how your dreams can help you to move the apparently immoveable, to solve the apparently unsolvable.

Enjoy this mix of the light-hearted, the deeply serious, and practical tips on working with your dreams to move past stuck, with some entertaining lessons of life thrown in to make you smile.

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Sliding doors and spooky tales

Sliding doors and spooky tales

This little cupboard has moved from house to house within our family for years, and we have always forgiven it for its one fault, doors that open whenever you walk past. The bolt that is designed to keep the doors closed is too short for the task, losing its grip and slipping out at the slightest vibration.

It belongs to my son, Euan, and his wife, Nataly, but from time to time, when they’re overseas, it graces a corner in our home, as it does now.

“I could fix it with a strip of Velcro,” said Euan, steadying the cupboard into place earlier this month. “I don’t know why I haven’t thought of that before. Glue a strip of Velcro on the inside-top edge of each door to hold them onto the cupboard frame.”

“Or magnets,” I added, warming to the theme.

Past solutions have been more temporary, a cocktail stick or feather threaded into the latch to hold the bolt a little tighter. Or a wad of paper, wedge of cardboard, hairclip, rubber band, piece of string, or silk ribbon bow. None of which really worked.

I found some magnets, and several experiments later we were no closer to an adequate solution.

We stood back and thought again. “We could tip the cupboard back a bit,” we announced together. A good idea that, let gravity help us out.

“Or file down the back legs,” suggested Euan, then the cupboard would still look straight.

Aha! We looked at each other and laughed. Euan found his spirit-level app and did the measurement. The cupboard wasn’t level. It was leaning slightly forward, imperceptible to the eye, but enough for gravity to pull on the doors and pop the short bolt aside.

So that was the plan. Euan would file down the back legs so the cupboard would sit straight and level and the doors would remain closed.

We flipped the cupboard upside down. There, on each of its back legs, was a white plastic grommet. There, on each of its front legs, was a telltale hole where screws had once held grommets in place. No wonder the cupboard wasn’t level. We didn’t need Velcro, magnets, cocktail sticks, feathers, wads of paper, wedges of cardboard, hairclips, rubber bands, pieces of string, silk ribbon bows, or a saw to file down the back legs. We just needed two grommets for the front legs.

Better still, Euan simply snapped the grommets from the back legs and popped them onto the front legs, so the cupboard leans ever so slightly backwards, imperceptible to the eye, taking all pressure off the short bolt.

Which all goes to show, we thought, standing back from the big picture, that the way to solve a problem is to get down to basics, fix the foundation upon which everything else depends.

In life, it’s easy to get fixated on the problem you see, and to try and fix it at that level, rather than to explore the foundation of the problem. The problem may relate to a house built on sand, a business built on unserviceable debt, a relationship built on undisclosed expectations, a health regime built on inadequate nutrition, a project built on self doubt, a way of life built on narrow vision.

The house may be a perfectly fine house if built on rock, the business profitable if financed without debt, the relationship rewarding if expectations are negotiated, the health regime healing if supported nutritionally, the project successful if energised by confidence, the way of life richer if built on broader vision.

While it might be easy to point to the sand as a problem foundation for the house, or the unserviceable debt as a problem foundation for the business, it’s not so easy to notice self doubt, narrow vision, or undisclosed expectations as foundations for other problems in our lives. We didn’t know about the missing grommets until we turned the cupboard upside down.

Many of our foundation beliefs about life are unconscious, deeply programmed during our early years. We make choices and take actions (or hold back from taking actions) based on those unconscious beliefs. Some of those unconscious beliefs are good, some not so good. The not so good beliefs may be the source of a problem in your life, in the same way as the missing grommets caused the problem of the cupboard’s doors swinging open when we walked past. When you become aware of those not so good beliefs, you can replace them with better beliefs, in the same way that we became aware of the missing grommets and replaced them.

Dream analysis offers one of the best avenues for discovering unconscious beliefs, and dream alchemy one of the best methods of replacing not so good beliefs with better ones.

I’m reminded of a spooky (true) story here, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Years ago Michael and I spent a few weeks on an isolated 50 acre property, looking after someone’s house while they were away, testing to see if the lifestyle would suit us.

“The house is haunted, by the way,” the owner said, “but you’ll be ok. You’ll notice doors opening by themselves, that’s all.”

There was a concertina door into the bathroom and, as often as I left it closed I would return to see it wide open. I decided the floor was probably slanted, causing the lightweight door to slip slowly open over a period of time. Or maybe an animal, a cat, a lizard, a snake, was responsible.

One morning, I got out of bed and went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the microwave oven door wide open. It takes force to open a microwave oven door. You’ve got to press the latch, pull it back. No cat, lizard, or snake that I know is capable of that. I felt goosebumps run up my arms as I made the tea.

I took Michael’s tea into the bedroom and told him about the microwave oven door. “Maybe the house is haunted after all,” I said. Up until then, I hadn’t believed in ghosts playing around with doors to spook the living. Now I wasn’t so sure.

Michael’s reaction was completely different to what I had expected. “I got up in the middle of the night,” he said, “and it was so dark that I opened the microwave oven door so I could see by its interior light.”

Was the house haunted? I don’t know, but we were very glad to leave and return to life in the inner city.

Our unconscious beliefs can haunt us, invisibly guiding our choices, spookily opening and closing doors to opportunities. Understanding your dreams can help you become aware of those beliefs and to make conscious choices to build firm, positive foundations for the opportunities you would like to embrace.

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Episode 160 The Dream Show: I dreamed I had died

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Episode 160 The Dream Show: I dreamed I had died

My guest, Alexandra, dreamed she had died. She stood on the path outside the church, and calmly watched the priests emerge from the funeral service into the courtyard, dressed in celebration regalia emblazoned with a glowing fleur-de-lys pattern. They walked in her direction, carrying trays of silver containers, as if bringing her – in her soul form – an offering.

Alexandra’s dream was short, but deeply meaningful. As you’ll hear, Alexandra describes the feeling of standing on the path as being like an out of the body experience, and says she’s had that experience once before, in her waking life. This is a key to understanding her dream, and you’ll hear Alexandra share an experience she’s never shared before.

The Dream Show with Jane Teresa AndersonWhen we talk about a dream, our unconscious mind is engaged – just as it was during the dream – and it often prompts us to recall experiences that are related to what was going on in our life at the time of the dream. You’ll witness that whole process – and the insight and healing it brings – as you listen to this episode.

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The change you bring

The change you bring

So here we are, we of the western world, about to step into another new year. Let’s go back, oh, about 2,500 years. Let’s go back as far as Heraclitus 535-475 BC, the Greek philosopher whose “No man ever steps in the same river twice” so enchantingly encourages us to acknowledge and flow with change.

Change is inevitable. The river flows, so although it may look like the same river, it is not. You cannot step into the same river twice not only because the river has physically changed but because you have changed so you see and experience the river in a different way.

You may be able to influence the way in which the river changes (build a dam, change its course, pollute it, stop polluting it, fish it), but you cannot stop it from changing.

Looking back over 2014, what has changed in your life? What changed in your outer world? What changed in your inner world? What is the most obvious change? What is the most subtle? (For more clarity, do this Samsara Alchemy, an exercise designed to help you gain perspective from the old year before stepping into the new.)

What is the change that you bring to 2015?

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An ordinary fairy

An ordinary fairy

A fairy floated by, not a real fairy, but a fluffy seed like the dandelion seeds we called fairies when I was a child. Only it didn’t really float, it lingered right in front of my eyes then danced a little before flying away, leaving this mini blog in its wake.

I was sitting in my garden this morning, quite an ordinary garden really, yet often the place where an idea for a blog comes to mind. I was thinking about next week, about celebrating my birthday and Christmas with my family, and remembering how my father used to say, at the end of Christmas day, “Well, that’s it for another 364 days then”. My heart would always sink at the prospect of plunging back into the ordinary after such a perfect day.

How things have changed, I thought, this morning, or, more accurately, how I have changed over all those decades of learning to see the perfect in the ordinary.

It was at that moment that the fairy flew into my vision. I haven’t been aware of those fairy-seeds floating about recently, and certainly not one as in-my-face as that one was.

“It’s a fairy,” I imagined saying to Isobel, my almost four year old granddaughter who will be here next week for our celebrations.

“Why is it a fairy?” I heard Isobel ask in my imagination.

“Well, it’s really a seed flying through the air to find a perfect place to grow, but it flies and dances like a fairy, doesn’t it?”

At that point the fairy-seed zoomed right up close and performed her captivating dance, just for me. And for you, as it has turned out.

She danced a tale about a seed that was a perfectly ordinary seed, flown by a magnificent, perfectly-directed breeze right into my line of vision matching my early morning thoughts.

Seeing the perfect in the everyday ordinary is a blessing. Experiencing the deeper mystery of the guiding breeze is doubly so.

On a lighter note, remember to make a special wish if you see a fairy, dandelion or otherwise. When I blow out my birthday candles next week I’ll wish you all a perfectly beautiful Christmas and an equally perfect 364 days until the next one. Oh, why wait until then? Wishing you all – whether or not you celebrate Christmas – many beautiful forever blessings.

The Connected Way, Jane Teresa Anderson

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Episode 159 The Dream Show: The old and the new

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Episode 159 The Dream Show: The old and the new

Patti, my guest, was keen talk about her dream because she’s at a pivotal point in her life. She’s taking time out, making major decisions, and wanting to gather as much insight as she can to assist her in creating the shape of her future.

Patti has worked with me before on a dream and found the dream alchemy profoundly life-changing, so when she noticed signs in this new dream of dilemmas and not being able to see her way clearly, she decided to enlist my help while sharing the process with you on The Dream Show.

The Dream Show with Jane Teresa AndersonPatti’s dream features two bikes, her new one, and one she had 10-20 years ago. At one point she’s riding in the dark, unable to see clearly, frightened of crashing. At another point she panics about leaving the front tyre of her old bike behind. There are places to back out of, places to explore and enjoy, and a mysterious DVD that Patti would prefer to check out than buy for the $43 asking price. Why $43?

Join Patti and me as we journey into her dream, relate it to what’s going on in her life, draw the deeper insights she’s seeking, and create dream alchemy for her to do to ensure best outcomes.

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The secret of life

The Secret of Life

When I was about six or seven, an aunt gave me an autograph book for my birthday. I can still picture it, a padded matt white vinyl cover with an illustration of a modish 1960s lady, pen poised in her hand, and lots of different coloured, invitingly blank pages. My dad wanted to be first to write in my book, and he spent what seemed like hours looking through a ‘quote a day’ calendar to find exactly the right saying.

I treasured that book, and all these decades later I can still remember some of the quotes and sayings and who wrote them. I took them all to heart.

My grandmother chose a 1950s favourite:

“Little puffs of powder,
Little dabs of paint,
Make a girl’s complexion,
Look what it ain’t.”

I always took that to mean that too much makeup smothered your authentic beauty, but now I look at the words again, it could also be about the positives of the grownup art of beautification. My grandmother and my mother used puffs of powder and lipstick, nothing else. I just use lipstick. I wonder how much that autograph has influenced me throughout my life.

My school teacher chose:

“Eat no green apples
Or you’ll droop,
Be careful not to get the croup,
Avoid the chickenpox and such,
And don’t fall out of windows much.”

I’d already had the croup and chickenpox, so all I had to do was avoid green apples and windows. I’ve just Googled, so now I know these words were originally penned by Edward Anthony.

I loved the rhyme and rhythm of those autographs, and the thinking they made me do, as a child, because they seemed to be straightforward and yet they weren’t.

Dad sat at the table, surrounded by 365 little tear-off pages from last year’s calendar, arranged into piles of suitable autograph sayings. Finally, he couldn’t decide between two, so I got “The person who knows everything never gets far,” and:

“The secret of life is not to do what you like,
But to like what you do.”

Mr Google hasn’t been able to help me find an original source for Dad’s choice which has both puzzled and inspired me, sometimes to like what I do, and sometimes to do what I like.

Surely the secret, as adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs from Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Plus a little Buddhist attitude:

“Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”

Where, in your life, have you chosen to like what you do? How has this approach blessed you?

Where, in your life, have you chosen to do something you like, something you otherwise wouldn’t have done if you were focussed on liking what you do? How has this approach blessed you?

Recently I have been enjoying writing my own sayings or musings and popping them onto images to share. Here’s one:

Danced by Love Jane Teresa Anderson

“Driven by fear or
Danced by love?

You choose
Heartbeat by heartbeat.”

Does it resolve the issue of whether to do what you like or to like what you do? What do you think?

The tricky bit is that we often don’t know when our choices and actions are driven by fear. We are all too easily driven by unconscious fear. The other tricky bit is that sometimes we need to discover love and how to be danced by it.

As a dream analyst I am blessed to be able to do the work I like, and to help people look into their dreams to see their unconscious fears and the enormity of their love, to help them know which of their choices in life are driven – consciously or unconsciously – by fear, and to help them surrender to be danced by love.

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Episode 158 The Dream Show: A house with potential

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Episode 158 The Dream Show: A house with potential

Meet Lisa, my guest, who dreamed of a derelict house with a mix of funky and antique furniture, and great views from the steeply sloping garden. Should they buy the house? There were pros and cons, and because this was a dream, some of the cons were pretty outrageous: beds floating in an elevator shaft, a sinkhole in the garden, but, then again, it had some good things going for it too, and they were prepared to do some work.

How to decide between the pros and cons, in the dream and in life? Or are the pros and cons figments of the imagination, dependent on our personal experience, beliefs, and ways of looking at the world?

The Dream Show with Jane Teresa AndersonThere are some strong emotive elements in Lisa’s dream that help her to connect with her deeper feelings and gain fresh positive perspective on her situation.

There’s something for everyone in this episode: tips on dream interpretation, dream alchemy, and life lessons to explore and share. Enjoy.

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Simplify the complicated

Simplify the complicated Jane Teresa Anderson

“I’ll show you the back garden,” said Marion, leading me through her laundry, past her noisy rumbling tumbling washing machine, to the side door. This was several years ago, and I was going to keep a neighbourly eye on her roses while she was away for a week.

I followed Marion down the side path toward the rose garden. “When you get to this point, hold your right hand up like this,” she instructed, gesturing like a policeman stopping the traffic. It seemed a bit odd, but I’m glad that I did, because at that moment a gush of soapy water spurted from a hose tacked to the side of the house, and my hand was perfectly positioned to deflect the water and keep me dry.

It was a very small thing, but it stuck in my mind. The hose had been rigged up during the drought to carry the grey used water from the washing machine to the roses, and it turned out that the holes in the hose had been there for years, so long in fact, that Marion knew the exact point in the path to hold up her hand and the exact angle to flex her palm to keep herself dry. She seemed pretty pleased with her technique and accuracy.

I was completely baffled as to why no-one had mended the holes in the hose, or bought a new one.

I don’t know whether Marion had just got used to the slightly kooky routine and lost sight of the simple fix, or whether she had a vested interest in keeping the problem of the leaky hose alive. Did it give her a continuing opportunity to remind her husband of all the things he hadn’t done around the house (or, more poignantly, hadn’t done for her), or to build her case, on which she had expressed herself quite eloquently while failing to make any progress, to move to a new apartment in the city and leave everything that was falling apart behind? I conjecture to make a point, not about Marion, but about all of us, and the complicated ways we live our lives, knowingly or, as is more often the case, blindly.

Good habits make life easier or healthier for us. Other habits – like Marion’s – may be complicated ways of avoiding resolving the heart of the matter, or deceiving ourselves about what’s really at stake.

“Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!”
-    Sir Walter Scott (Marmion).

Scott’s famous lines apply to the inner world as much as the outer.

We all want to resolve issues, of course we do, but often we just don’t know how, or we fear facing the real source of the pain that we’ve worked so hard to bury. So we continue with our complicated ways of side-stepping the issue, or deflecting the anticipated pain by raising a ‘don’t go there’ palm to protect the heart from a soaking.

Much of my work in dream analysis is about identifying the tangled webs of unconscious beliefs and feelings that we build over a lifetime to avoid healing the heart of a matter.

Simplify the complicated
untangle the tangled
follow the threads
to the heart of the matter

The joy of the work is witnessing the immense release and relief when the dreamer frees their heart from hostage.

Behind every complication is a simple truth. What’s yours?

Here’s an alchemy practice for you to do to find out.

Look around your life – maybe at home, or at work, or at play – to find a practical situation that is, on reflection, a bit complicated. It might be the way your kitchen cupboards are organised so that you always have to bend down to fetch crockery you use a lot that would be much better placed at eye level. It might be the five-step security system you’ve got on your work email that keeps locking you out of business. It might be your determination to remain loyal to a gym in your old neighbourhood that takes you a traffic jam length of time to get to after work when there is a new gym two blocks away from home. It might be the tasks you need to get done at the weekend that leave you with little time for being with friends. It might be the way you organise your computer files, or the way that you don’t organise your computer files.

You only need one situation, and the alchemy works best if you choose one that’s only a little bit complicated. You know what to do next: simplify the complicated. Rearrange the kitchen cupboards, or try out the gym two blocks away, or declutter and rearrange your computer files.

What you do in your outer world reflects in your inner world. As you simplify and untangle your outer world, you begin to simplify and untangle in your inner world. The heart of the matter becomes clearer to you, you suddenly know what to do, and life lightens.

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