Category Archives: This waking life

Jane Teresa’s musings, insights, inspirations and observations on waking life …

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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Even mountains flow

Even mountains flow
Yesterday I posted a quote, “Even mountains flow”, to Facebook. Did you see it? What does it mean to you? Did it linger in your mind during the day? Did you return to it, ponder it, come up with different interpretations for it?

How do mountains flow in the physical world? Count the ways before reading on.

We might think of mountains as solid, reliably static defining features of our landscape. We might chip away at them, quarrying rock, building roads, blasting tunnels, but still think of the mountain itself as firmly anchored, holding its place.

In the physical world, a mountain flows naturally on a grand scale when it’s an erupting volcano, or rumbling and shifting during an earthquake, or dissolving in torrential mudslide. On a smaller scale it flows as it erodes, tumbling boulders and pebbles, or fine particles of wind-blown, foot-trodden, rain-washed sand. It flows, shifts, changes over time. Over eons, mountains grow, move, change shape, and erase.  They flow across the planet, into and out of existence.

A mountain flows with plant and animal life, with the changing seasons, with rivers and waterfalls, with melting ice, with new life after fire. It flows grass and wild flowers around the edges and over man’s digging, building, tunnelling, and treading. It flows to reclaim, heal, and find new ways of expressive being.

Of course you know that my writing is about our inner life, and dreams, so you’re probably already flowing ahead of me.

As you contemplate the apparently immoveable flowing, as you count the ways in which even mountains flow, your inner world is responding to the suggestions offered by the metaphor. You may not yet be consciously aware of this process, or you may already be beginning to notice some feelings, urgings, new ideas and perspectives popping into your mind where before there was resistance to change.

Even mountains flowLife is change, and change is life. There are many ways to go with the flow (and to choose how to experience it), and there are many ways to observe the flow and decide on a change of course.

Dreams, dreams! Yes, I hear you!

Many of our dreams are metaphors for the ways we handle life. The dreaming mind or brain processes our conscious and unconscious experiences of the last couple of days, compares these to our past experiences, and updates our mindset accordingly. The part of the brain that deals with this is better at metaphors than logic.

If you dream of running from an overwhelming tsunami, ask yourself where, in your life in the last couple of days, that metaphor applies. If you dream of being confronted by a snarling wolf, where does that metaphor apply?

If you can identify a metaphor in your dream, and the parallel situation in your life, explore the dream metaphor, open it up and find ways of looking at it from different angles, find lots of solutions to the dream problem. Explore how you might tame the tsunami, fly above it, delve into it and ride it, soothe it into calm, promise to sit down and listen to what it has to say and work out a way to deal with it, or surrender to it, or heal it. It’s a metaphor so you don’t have to be logical.

As you explore and work with the metaphor in this way, you are simultaneously exploring and working with the parallel situation in your life. Your perspectives will shift, feelings will emerge, new approaches will occur to you, new solutions will present themselves, and you will notice that you begin to automatically respond to the life situation in better ways. Yes, this is a form of dream alchemy, and it can powerfully shift the apparently immoveable.

Even mountains flow, so you can too.

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Episode 155 The Dream Show: Be inspired

Thank you for your help

 

Your-Dreams-on-Ponderabout.com

What do you think of this image? The guys at ponderabout.com came across one of my prose poems, and created this image to share on their inspirational site. It surprised me when they asked for my permission to publish one of my prose poems because I didn’t know that I had written any. I thought they must have got me mixed up with someone else, but when I looked at the image, I recognised my words, given fresh perspective. Plucked from the heart of my original article, laid out in prose poem format, given design treatment and embellished with a cartoon, the words took on more emphasis. I was inspired by their idea to treat more of my work in this way.

Actually, I’ve been blessed with a few creative inspirations this week, so I thought I’d make ‘Be Inspired’ the theme of this episode.

The Dream Show with Jane Teresa AndersonListen as we delve into some of the points listed on the image, and discover how to be inspired by looking at life from different perspectives, ranging from the perspective of your dreams to the imagined perspective of a steaming pile of cow poo. At the end of the podcast I give you a ‘Be inspired’ checklist, suggesting you pick just one (ok maybe more than one) to follow into action today. Enjoy.

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What’s your problem?

What's your problem?

Is there a problem you’re trying to solve in your life right now? Or maybe you prefer a more positive spin: Is there a challenge you’re encountering, ripe with opportunity and blessings that you’ve yet to see?

Looking back, what was the last problem you solved, and how did you do it? What was the last challenge you encountered, and how did you find the opportunities and blessings it offered?

The problems and challenges we face in our day to day lives are nightly processed in our dreams, although it takes a trained eye to see through the surreal dream drama into the working of the mind that created it. Once you know how to do this, you’ll see that most of our dreams reflect the problems or challenges we’re facing, and the inner conflicts (usually unconscious and such a surprise to us when we identify them) that hold us back from finding solutions.

Sometimes our dreaming mind finds a solution to a problem, or the opportunity in a challenge, and we wake up automatically wiser. We may not understand the dream, but the solution or opportunity will seemingly magically appear to us during the day. At other times, even though the dreaming mind comes up with a great solution, it may not trickle through to waking consciousness, or may take time to brew, or may be overridden by other issues that come up for us in the days that follow.

More often, though, our dreaming mind fails to find a solution to the problem or an opportunity in the challenge. The processing loops around the same old solutions we have tried before, the same old ways of looking at the situation, the same old ways of believing there’s a problem when perhaps it’s a problem of our own perspective. In this way, our dreams can reinforce our mindset, our conscious and unconscious beliefs, conflicts, and automatic habitual ways of seeing and responding in the world.

It’s quite comical really, the grand design that gives our problem-solving work to the very mind that is generally wired against seeing the solution. We struggle, blind, until we see. Then we can look back on our old way of perceiving the problem – on our limited perception – and see the funny side.

That said, there are ways to approach a dream, to break it down, to identify the problem and the limited beliefs (conscious and unconscious) that prevent you from seeing solutions.

Sometimes it turns out NOT to be about finding solutions, but about why you see a problem at all.

Here’s an extract from my book, The Compass, to illustrate this.

“Imagine your problem is a mountain blocking your path. You have just turned a corner and there it is, right in front of you, obstructing your access to the path beyond. From where you stand, you can see one steep, jagged, icy trail snaking up the mountainside, ending in a precipice overhanging a deep crevasse. Being so close to the mountain, your personal view is severely limited, and there appears to be no solution to this problem, no way of getting over it.

Now imagine moving several compass degrees to the left, and looking again. From this point of view, you might see an easier path zigzagging across rocky ledges, bypassing the top of the mountain, and seemingly leading to the other side. It’s a possible solution around the problem, but it’s risky and it would be a long, exhausting route to take.

Then picture finding a viewpoint several compass degrees to the right of the mountain, where you see a train waiting for you at a station, ready to zip you through a tunnel deep into the mountain and deliver you to the other side, fast and safe.

Other viewpoints may present other solutions. Further around on the compass dial, a new angle might reveal a lake nestled into the side of the mountain and a ferry boat that can take you across the lake to shortcut the journey you had originally intended and deliver you fifty kilometres beyond the mountain on your chosen path two days earlier than planned.

Yet another viewpoint might present you with a mountain guide prepared to take you safely up the mountain to spend time at a spiritual retreat perched in a Shangri La setting. This new view might entice you to change your original plan and follow the guide, while the magnificent bird’s eye view you get from the retreat might inspire you to choose an entirely new path from that point forward.

Or, at only two compass degrees round the mountain from where you started, you might meet a guru who sits you down to meditate on the existence of the mountain, whereupon you reach an epiphany: you realise that the mountain is made entirely of tiny particles of sand. It only appears to be a solid, immoveable rock. You see that all you have to do is take a deep breath and blow that mountain away. Your problem was not a problem after all. It was an illusion. What a discovery!

And so it continues. How you see your mountainous problem depends on your personal views and beliefs, and these are based on your unique life experiences and upbringing. Your personal views and beliefs limit the number of solutions you can see to a problem. If you can see your problem from a new viewpoint, a new angle, you will not only see new solutions to your problem, but you will also look back on where you originally stood and see your old self in a new light. You will see the person you were, with your old limiting beliefs and the blocks and problems they created for the old you. You will feel the shift as the old you fades, and the new you understands, smiles, and moves forward.” [end of extract]

Let your dreams help you to identify the limiting lens of your current mindset and discover new perspectives on … what was your problem again?

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Spellbound

Spellbound

“I bet you get this all the time,” said the sales assistant helping me choose a new skirt yesterday, “but what do those dreams mean where you are trying to walk but your feet are heavy and it’s all so slow? I keep having that dream.”

“You probably have the dream when you feel you’re not making fast enough progress in some area of your life, when it feels too hard, too heavy, too slow,” I suggested, “but to be specific we’d have to look at the details of the dream.”

Her eyes flitted while she took this in, “How true. That’s fascinating!”

Fascinating is a word I hear a lot in my work. According to the Thesaurus, fascinating is similar to mesmerizing, intriguing, absorbing, and spellbinding. How true, people are mesmerized, intrigued, absorbed, and spellbound by their dreams, even when they don’t know what they mean.

Dreams are expressed in the language of your unconscious mind where much of your deeper self resides, out of sight, out of (conscious) mind. It’s your deeper self that calls to you from a remembered dream, intriguing you, feeling fascinatingly familiar yet elusive, difficult to pin down, difficult to name. It’s your deeper self that can influence the way you respond to life, beyond your conscious control or awareness. Such is the power of your unconscious mind to cast its spell upon you.

When you know how to look into a dream you can identify those unconscious aspects of your deeper self and the ways they influence your life – some good, some not so good.

So what might be going on for someone who has the heavy feet dream? Here are some of the many possibilities:

  • Fear of success. Consciously you want to succeed in reaching the goal you have set yourself, but unconsciously you fear the changes you believe success will bring you.
  • Fear of failure. As above, but unconsciously you believe you may fail and you fear the changes you believe failure will bring you.
  • Unconsciously you have the belief that you’re not worthy (or a whole host of other negative judgements) of achieving the goal you’ve set yourself or the life it will open for you. Self doubt casts its spell on you.
  • The goal is no longer appropriate for you (you have grown, changed), or you’re chasing the goal to fulfil someone else’s expectations. Your unconscious mind is wiser, and casts its spell to slow you down enough to see a better way.

There are many more possibilities, but these are some of the more common ones. In each case, your unconscious mind causes you to put obstacles in your way, for example: to strive for unachievable perfection, create complications, take on too much, let stress drain your energy, find excuses, binge eat-drink-drug-exercise, obsess over your Facebook feed, keep checking your email, overlook replenishing mind, body and soul. These obstacles successfully sabotage your likelihood of achieving your goal, and most of them also exhaust you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, making daily life as draining as the dream pictures, one heavy bogged-down step after another.

If you have this dream, reflect back on the last 24-48 hours to identify the situation that feels heavy going and slow. If it’s not obvious to you, look next for the situation that is all go, high energy, busy-busy-busy, but, when you think about it, not really getting you where you want to be. Or take a piece of paper and make a list of the obstacles that got in your way (and the unexpected things that turned up that needed your attention) during the last two days. Can you see the connection between your dream and your life now?

The details of your dream are important: what happened before the heavy feet part, what else was going on, where you were headed to, who else was there, how you felt about it all, the texture and slope of the path, what you were wearing (the list is as endless as our dreams are unique). When the details are analysed, your unconscious beliefs, conflicts, and emotions, are uncovered. The aspects of your deeper self that have you spellbound are unmasked.

It’s a fascinating process, but it’s time to ensure that your unconscious – your deeper self – is working with you to achieve the kind of goals that are healthy and appropriate for you.

Do you still want to achieve this goal? Is it time to commit to it more fully? Is it time to modify it? Is it time to let it go? Has it served its purpose?

Is it enough to unmask your unconscious saboteur? Yes and no. Awareness helps, but it’s better – and more rewarding – to do a dream alchemy visualisation to rewire the unhealthy unconscious beliefs or to strengthen the healthy ones.

It’s best to create a visualisation based on your unique dream, using your unique dream symbols, designed to zone in on the belief that needs to be changed, and change it.

But here’s a more general dream alchemy visualisation that you can do if you have this kind of dream:

While awake, close your eyes and imagine yourself back in the dream, just at the point where it all gets tough. Visualise – and feel – your feet and legs feeling light, see and feel yourself now lightly stepping, running, or dancing with ease and a sense of joyful fulfilment as you suddenly arrive at your destination.

Do this visualisation 15-20 times a day for a couple of weeks. You’ll notice that things become lighter and clearer, obstacles melt, hesitation vanishes, and you’ll feel more confident about where you’re going and why.

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When affirmations and visualisations fail

When affirmations and visualisations fail

How many times have you set an intention and created an affirmation or visualisation to guide its manifestation, only to fail or even magnify the problem?

Here’s a simple example.

You decide it’s time to get serious about losing some weight. You decide to do this by changing to a healthier diet. It’s all quite clear to you: you know what you want to achieve (lose some weight), and you know how to do it (you’ve done all your research and you have chosen a healthy diet you know you can follow).

You come up with something like:

Affirmation: “I am slim, confident, and attractive, and I enjoy eating healthy food.”

Or you might choose a visualisation in which you see yourself as slim, confident, and attractive, enjoying eating healthy food.

You may also have done some research into how to create a successful affirmation or visualisation:

You know that it must be positive (no negative words like “no more chocolate” or even “lose weight”).

You know it must be expressed or envisioned in the present tense, as something that is reality for you today (otherwise you’re affirming something that will always be in the future, always out of reach).

You know that you must include some positive emotions or feelings to engage your heart and give every uplifting reason to make it happen.

You also know that an affirmation or visualisation works best if you can engage all your senses, so you key in positive sights, sounds, tastes, smells, skin sensations (touch), and maybe even body movements that support your intention.

Sometimes these kinds of affirmations and visualisations work, but more often they fail. In this simple example, you may find that the more you do the affirmation the more you find yourself eating chocolate, or putting off the diet until tomorrow, or following the diet but staying the same weight or even gaining weight.

Every time you affirm a conscious intention, any unconscious beliefs or feelings that conflict with it will be called into battle.

One reason for these failures is that every time you affirm a conscious intention, any unconscious beliefs or feelings that conflict with it will be called into battle.

In our simple example, you may be affirming that you are slim, but if you have an unconscious belief that being slim will threaten your relationship with your partner, your affirmation will not only fail, it will massively fail. The affirmation calls up your unconscious belief and sends it into overdrive to do its job, which it sees as protecting your relationship from the repercussions of being slim. That’s when you find yourself automatically eating unhealthy food or engaging in other behaviours that not only sabotage your chances of becoming slim but possibly result in putting on more weight.

What makes doing an affirmation attractive in the first place?

Consider this too: what makes doing an affirmation attractive in the first place? If a new attitude or behaviour is easy to do, you just do it. It works. You don’t need an affirmation. When you can’t just do it, no matter how much you try, (when you unconsciously sabotage your good intention), you may decide to enlist the help of an affirmation. So the moment an affirmation seems like a good idea, it’s probably because you have unconscious beliefs to the contrary. And you now know where that’s going to get you!

Yes, I am coming to dreams – and to dream alchemy affirmations and visualisations and why they work.

Discovering the unconscious beliefs that sabotage you

One therapeutic approach (as described by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way), is to write down your affirmation and then listen to the negative voice at the back of your mind as it raises its objections. Some of those negative beliefs will be familiar to you, some may surprise you. If you do the work of tracing those negative beliefs back to their origins (when did you acquire them, from whom, what were the circumstances, how have they served you, what have they protected you from), you may then be able to do the healing work necessary to release or transform them. Once you have done that work and there’s no longer anything blocking your positive intention, your affirmation will succeed.

Here’s another approach that is more powerful, and much quicker.

Every night, your dreaming mind processes your conscious and unconscious experiences of the last one or two days. When you focus on repeating an affirmation or visualisation – and especially when that calls up powerful unconscious objections – your dreaming mind is going to process all of this. If you explore your dreams a day or two into your affirmations, you stand to gain deep insight into your unconscious beliefs and inner conflicts about your intention. But that’s not where I’m going today. Here’s where the magic begins.

Let’s look at a dream you might have while doing this affirmation

Imagine, still using our simple example, that you have spent a couple of days affirming, “I am slim, confident, and attractive, and I enjoy eating healthy food”. On the second night you dream of a tall, beautiful house built on thin wooden stilts. You see flames on one of the stilts, so you grab some water and put the flames out. But then you see more of the stilts catching fire, and you spend the whole dream putting out fires only to see more spontaneously combust. In the whole dream, you never get to spend any time in the upper storeys of the beautiful house. You spend all your time putting out fires and worrying about the stability of this house built on a foundation of thin, fiery stilts.

I made up the dream to illustrate the point. The dream features a beautiful house built on an unstable foundation of thin stilts that keep catching fire. The beautiful house is attractive (tick, you wanted to be attractive), but it is built on an unstable foundation (no tick for confidence, this whole structure could collapse), and its thin stilts keep catching fire (you’re angry – fiery – about what being thin/slim might lead to).

All the time you spend putting out fires in the dream reflects all the time you spend doing your affirmation, but the more you do this (the more you do the affirmation), the more your unconscious anger about being thin/slim sabotages what you’re trying to build.

If this was your dream – and not a simple example I made up – we would be able to identify the issue around being thin/slim that is still bringing up anger for you, stopping you from achieving your goal. But I promised you magic in the form of dream alchemy, and here it is:

Dream alchemy: talk to your unconscious mind in its own language

Your dream shows you the language your unconscious mind understands. It pictures your anger about being thin/slim as wooden stilts catching fire, and it pictures your lack of confidence as a lack of adequate support/foundation for the house.

In the language of the dream (which is also the language of your unconscious mind), if there were no fire (no anger), and if there were firmer support (perhaps the thin wooden stilts are replaced by slim, strong, marble columns), your beautiful house would stand tall and you’d be able to enjoy being in it.

In other words, if you had no anger about being thin, and if you allowed yourself more support for being slim, then you would enjoy being “slim, confident, and attractive” in perfect accord with your affirmation.

A dream alchemy affirmation is an affirmation where you talk to your unconscious mind in its own language to transform the belief that is sabotaging you into one that aligns with your conscious intention. It might look like this:

Affirmation: “I am standing in my tall, beautiful house, supported on solid, strong, slim, marble columns built on a cool marble foundation, and I’m feeling wonderfully confident and attractive.”

A dream alchemy visualisation is simply the visual version of the affirmation.

In each case, make sure they are in the present tense, and add the emotion you want to feel (confident). Make sure you feel that emotion when you speak your affirmation or do your visualisation. You can add in sensual references to engage the senses, but beware making it too complex. Speak plainly and clearly to your unconscious mind. Most importantly, transform the negatives without mentioning the negatives. Fiery wood becomes cool marble.

When you do your dream alchemy affirmations or visualisations (20-30 times a day for two weeks works well), you are communicating with your unconscious mind in its own language, gently transforming an unconscious belief by transforming the symbols that represent it. This is quite different from using a conventional affirmation (using the language of the conscious mind) that challenges the unconscious to rebel rather than coax it to change.

You’ll be surprised by how quickly dream alchemy affirmations and visualisations work. In the example, the ‘thin’ issue that was still causing you anger and sabotaging your good intent resolves, and you find yourself responding in the world in different ways, ways that bring your intention to fruition.

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Teaching school students how to understand their dreams

Teaching school students how to understand their dreams

What did you learn about dreams and nightmares when you were at school? Nothing, I’ll bet. Can you remember some of the dreams that puzzled, worried, or frightened you as a young child and as a young adult? Did you talk about them? Was anyone able to help ease your mind, and give you practical tips on how to look into your dreams for clues about how to better handle life’s challenges?

I wish I had known, as a child and later as a young adult, what I know now about dreams. I would have learned how to recognise and deal with the feeling pictured in my childhood recurring nightmare of packs of wolves blocking my path, ready to devour me. I would have learned how to address the situation reflected by my dreams of jumping into a swimming pool for fun only for all the water to instantly drain away. I would have gained confidence from my dreams of being able to see exciting perspectives that other people couldn’t see, and as a young adult the insight I would have gained from my dream of being on an endless staircase that eternally doubled back on itself would have given me a way to create quicker, smarter outcomes than I was accustomed to experiencing. The way I felt about myself and my life, and the way I handled my life, would have been so much better so much sooner.

I received an email earlier this month from Judith, a keen follower of The Dream Show, saying:

“I woke up this morning and thought that there should be a class in high school or college where they teach the basic skills to understand one’s own dreams, or at very least, not to misunderstand them. And then I thought I should share it with you. I guess I am at a point where I acknowledge that understanding my dreams makes a huge difference in my life, a vital difference, and I wish everybody had it too.”

It’s something I’ve occasionally considered, given that we all dream every night, and most of us remember many of our dreams, especially the frightening ones. I asked Judith if I could share her waking thought with you on this blog. I thought we might start painting a picture of how taking dreams into our school systems might look, and seek your thoughts and suggestions. Maybe we can take some steps toward making it happen.

So how would it look, at kindergarten, junior school, high school, and college?

I published some tips on the internet back in 2005 for parents of children suffering nightmares, which you can still read here. While those ideas were designed for parents, some could be adapted and extended into a kindergarten class situation.

Let’s take a general approach, given that you – readers of this blog – live all over the world and experience many different education systems.

Might our picture be of specialists contracted to come into schools and colleges to teach courses on dreams? Or might we picture specialists developing courses and programs for teachers to use in the classroom? May we be bold enough to envision dreams being incorporated into standard curricula from kindergarten through to the end of high school?

Or might we picture offering specialist training in dreams to school counsellors and guidance staff, either to assist them in their work with individual students or to give them the tools to work with small groups?

Or might we picture developing books, videos, games, apps, that individual teachers might choose to introduce into creative studies, personal development, reading, drama, social studies, relationship courses, or student research projects?

I can see, in my mind’s eye, writing a book about dreams for children and young adults. I can see an outline of the content. I can imagine the stories I might write, the games and puzzles designed to teach, the practical tips to follow, the gentle imparting of how to grow and flow with the big lessons of life: coping with change, building resilience, facing fears and difficult emotions, realising potential, making decisions, developing kindness and compassion, and so much more.  It would be a lot of fun to create, but maybe some of the other ideas I’ve suggested are better – and would travel further – in the long run.

Long before I began researching dreams, I worked for two years as a high school science and biology teacher, and spent a term as acting head of biology. It was a very long time ago, and I understand from friends and clients who are teachers today that the paperwork side of things is more complex and time-consuming than ever before, and that the work needed to introduce new courses – let alone new subjects – is somewhat Herculean, but how might we nevertheless begin?

In her email, Judith mentioned helping students “at very least, not to misunderstand (their dreams)”, and I think this is a key point. As a dream analyst I see the heartbreak and high anxiety that can result from misunderstanding one’s dreams, particularly from taking them literally.

I have talked with people who believed they had dreamed the dates of their deaths – and lived their lives (with compromise) taking this into account. (When I show them how to relate the dream to their life, they recognise the symbolism, and, in due time, the anticipated death date passes proving that these dreams are not to be taken literally.)

I have talked with people who have wasted years searching for a soul-mate with the precise physical characteristics they have seen in their dreams – and missed recognising the person who would have been a great match. These dreams are symbolic, and, once understood, can be extremely helpful in identifying and encouraging a dreamer’s potential.

I have talked with people who have believed their dreams of their partners cheating on them (and taken action or withdrawn emotionally), and I have talked with people who have been so shocked by their sexual or violent actions in their dreams that they have mistakenly believed they must be wired for and capable of such acts in waking life. Dreams of cheating, sex, and violence, are normal and common and not what they seem. Once understood, they can be extremely beneficial in helping the dreamer to develop healthy skills for successfully navigating life’s challenges.

I have seen so many people suffer so much pain from taking their dreams literally.

Let’s help make a change. Let’s begin with education early in life.

What do you suggest?

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Perfect but for one little thing

Perfect but for one little thing

Three ideas for today’s blog jostled in my head, but which to choose? It was one of those perfect mornings, just back from yoga, sipping coffee in a garden still wet from overnight rain, a balmy breeze, birds chirping happily as they flitted through the trees feasting on the array of delicacies rain brings, just perfect except for one little thing – a housefly determined to settle on my hand, my arm, my leg.

“Shoo fly,” I encouraged, with yogic intention. No response. “Go away!” I insisted, shaking him off my arm, but with equal insistence he simply settled back down.

Maybe it’s the coffee, I thought, and made the effort to get out of my chair and put my now empty coffee cup in the kitchen, but as soon as I sat down again, there he was. Maybe it’s the post-yoga sweat on my skin, I thought, but I’m not going to let one little housefly rush me into the shower before I’m ready. I closed my eyes. The three ideas for today’s blog still jostled in my head.

Even with my eyes closed I could feel the tiniest tickle of the housefly’s feet as it landed on my arm, flitted away for a moment before landing on my hand, flitted away again before exploring my wrist. How can it be that the tiniest creature with the lightest of feet can make its presence so enormously felt, even when I have my eyes closed to it?

I decided to zone out the housefly, and I achieved it for a whole minute or so. My eyes still closed, I imagined I was on the beach, the garden breeze now carrying salty sea air, the chirping birds now accompanied by seabirds in full cry, the children playing in the garden next door now building sandcastles on the beach. Wide awake and imagining, every sense alive, I marvelled – as I often do – at the power of the inner eye to allow us to be in two places at the same time. I was at home in the garden, and I was also on the beach. With my eyes closed, I could easily have been in either place. They were equal sensations. I was as totally on the beach as I was in the garden, but, unfortunately, so was the housefly.

All I had wanted was to enjoy the perfect morning while those three ideas for today’s blog settled into priority order. Then I would have my shower, switch on my laptop, and begin writing. The perfect plan for the perfect morning had been spoiled by one annoyingly persistent housefly jostling with perfection for my attention.

So I decided to give it precisely that. I lifted my hand to my face so I could examine the fly up close. He had stunning eyes, a sparkling, deep ruby red that had me transfixed for a few perfect moments. Then he flew away and was gone completely.

In his place there was silence where previously three ideas for today’s blog and one annoying housefly had jostled for attention on a perfect morning. In that silence emerged a new idea for today’s blog, and the realisation that the morning had been perfect all along.

Yes, it’s a true story, and such moments always delight me in the way they hold a mirror to the inner self with all its perfectly imperfect jostling perceptions of life. Just as dreams do. The key is to be awake to both.

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Something old, something new

Something old Something new

“I met a completely new person in my dream, yet he felt so familiar. I must have created him, the details of his face and body, his clothing, but why that feeling of knowing him so well?”

It was my birthday earlier this week, and we were out celebrating when we bumped into a friend, Dee, who introduced her friend, Mark, and mentioned my work with dreams.

“How odd to meet you today,” he said. “I haven’t remembered a dream for five years, and then last week I had a dream about a completely new person, and it’s been on my mind ever since. Did I make him up, and why did he feel so familiar?”

Mark started to relate the man’s physical details.

“What about his personality?” I asked. “How did he make you feel?”

“He was inspiring. I felt uplifted,” he replied, economising his words so as to be understood over the loud band music.

I don’t usually interpret dreams in social situations, and certainly not with a live band playing ten metres away, but I offered a comment. “In the day or two before the dream you connected with a completely new aspect of yourself, a mix of something very familiar and something quite new. You felt uplifted and inspired. Your dreaming mind created a face, body, and clothes to encapsulate the feeling. What happened?”

“Oh, that’s amazing,” Mark said. “I was just telling Dee about a situation last week where I felt more like my old self but in a new and better way.  My sense of humour came back to life, and that’s something I haven’t felt for a long time. It was very uplifting.”

It seems fitting to blog about this ‘something old, something new’ dream as we prepare to welcome a new year in four days time.

Is there ‘something old’ that you’ve lost touch with, something you’d like to reconnect with, to bring forward (rather than bring back) into your life in a new way? What comes to mind? Write it down.

Why did you lose touch with this? If you’re not sure, or if you feel there’s a deeper answer than the one on your lips right now, watch your dreams over the next few days as they process this question and the feelings it elicits.

You may be able, like Mark, to simply allow that old, familiar, lost quality into your life again, or you may need a little help in identifying and releasing the blocks that have kept it at bay.

So you have your ‘something old’ that you’d like to reconnect with and bring forward into your life in 2014. What would you like your “something new” to be? What comes to mind? Write it down.

The blessing that gives more life and meaning.

The blessing that gives more life and meaning.

Your ‘something new’ might simply be the perspective and wisdom you have gained since you last enjoyed living your ‘something old’.

The very challenge that seemed to cause you to lose touch with your ‘something old’ is most likely the blessing that will give more life and meaning to your ‘something old’ once you are ready to welcome it home.

 

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A year of dreams

Every morning for a year, Seattle conceptual performance artist Amy-Ellen Flatchestedmama Trefsger recorded her dreams to video. Bleary eyed, yawning, and honouring her commitment for arts sake not to look in the mirror before recording, she notched up over 170 dreams across 52 weekly videos. She titled her project, Sharing My Subconscious, and asked me to review and analyse the dreams and make a response video to complete the work. (That’s the response video at the top of this post.)

Here’s Amy-Ellen at Week 21:

You can see all 52 videos at www.flatchestedmama.com or on the Sharing My Subconscious playlist.

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