(Note: I wrote this article ten years ago, during a period of change, before I had found the name ‘dream alchemy’ to describe the approach I was evolving. Yet here it is, and there I am, doing the magic that created the firm foundation upon which the last ten years have been built.)
In the early hours of a still dark morning, back in 1983, my stomach churned as our bed lurched across the polished floor and the long bedroom curtains swished through the still air and swiped my face. The windows were closed. My husband slept soundly. My tiny children cradled on, familiar with sleeping in rocking arms, strapped onto my back or being carried in midnight sleep from late parties back to their beds without stirring. Perched in the penthouse of an apartment block high in the South American Andes, I realised why all our new friends lived in houses. This was my first experience of an earthquake and with a year ahead of us in Quito, Ecuador, it would not be my last. When we weren’t being shaken from side to side we were flipped from the ground by vertical quakes, leaving us stepping air for heart lurching moments.
I was reminded of this recently when I dreamed I was back in Quito, standing in a star-shaped dream house drawing a feeling of great strength from the ground beneath my feet: that very same ground that had rumbled and growled all those years ago. How things change!
In dreams the ground, or the earth, often represents the basis of our conscious understanding of the world. (It stands under us: it gives us our ‘understanding’.) I have dreamed many earthquakes and earth tremors since my year in Ecuador, each dream shake-up symbolising change in my understanding of life. Out with the old basis and onto new territory.
Change begins in the depths of the unconscious, just as earthquakes begin in the deeper layers of the earth, moving unseen and dark way below the known surface. Subtle changes in our unconscious percolate through to affect the world we see and the way we see it. Our dreams often pick up on the deep inner upheavals, the re-arranging of our unconscious strata of thoughts, memories and conditionings, and present the deep movement as dream earthquakes, tremors, earth changes or earthworks. In this way, our earthquake dreams are like seismic detectors, giving us advance warning of coming change. They are personally precognitive rather than being premonitions of physical earth changes or world disasters.
So why did the ground beneath my feet in my recent dream of standing in the star-shaped house feel so solid? Why did I feel I was drawing on great strength?
Quito was not only a place of earthquake and tremor for me. It was a time of adaptation, of opening myself to new skills and new possibilities. In its quaky shakiness it created new foundation stones for my future, a future based on trusting intuition and embracing change as a positive force directing the unfolding of life. My recent dream mirrored back to me the difference between my initial fear of change in those early Quito days and the strength I can draw from the ground I have built beneath my feet since then.
One of the advantages of a dream rich in sensation is that you can invoke the memory of the dream feeling when needed. I have summoned up that intense sensation of drawing strength from the ground on several occasions since the dream, and felt it positively influence the situations and their outcomes. You can use positive emotions from dreams in this way by picturing yourself in the dream scene and letting the same feeling fill you to overflowing as you negotiate life situations relevant to the dream.
Pay attention to the various grounds you walk upon in your dreams to learn what they reflect about your present understanding of life. Traversing rocky ground may suggest that life seems ‘rocky’ to you. Or, on the contrary, walking on rock in a dream may reflect solidity or a firm belief in old ways since rocks themselves are ancient formations. Slippery ground may reveal feelings of insecurity about life (what will happen if you ‘slip up’?). Muddy earth may reflect a muddied, unclear basis to your understanding. Gravel may symbolise a connection with the temporary as gravel paths are often later made more solid.
Or gravelly ground may suggest an irritating basis to life since gravel gets under your skin when you fall, or can make it difficult for you to ‘get a firm grip’ under certain conditions. Your dream ground may be a high rung on a tottering ladder with a small centre of gravity, indicating perhaps instability or lack of a firm basis.
If you find yourself walking on water … well … water symbolises our emotions as well as our unconscious and don’t we just need the reminder from time to time that we can all perform miracles if we’re in touch with our unconscious?
I haven’t walked on water, but I have walked on air in my waking life – well, almost. After the year of living at altitude in the Andes my body changed in the way that all bodies do to adapt to the lesser amounts of oxygen in the high atmosphere. The haemoglobin levels in my blood increased and so did my lung capacity. Together these physical adaptations to the thin air worked to deliver more oxygen to my body than in my pre-Quito days. Gone were the tingling lips, numb finger tips and dizziness of my first six weeks living up near the snow-capped volcanoes on the equator. When we left Ecuador en route to Australia, we touched down in San Francisco for a week. ‘Touched’ was the right word. Pumped up on oxygen I felt as if I was air-walking, bouncing back from each step and bounding forward without effort. Like walking on the Moon. And when I laughed at the lack of ground beneath my feet, I hyperventilated and spun out on oxygen overload. I was high from living on high and was finding the old familiar world disorientating and unreal in its new strangeness.
Our dreams help us to resolve our unconscious conflicts as they shuffle the unconscious layers of thoughts, memories and conditioning to create changed perceptions of once familiar worlds. The strengths we can draw from our many awakenings are well worth the occasional queasy quakes that create the firmer ground of new under-standing.
[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, July 2000. First published as a Dream Sight article.]