Working with dreams

 

I thought I would do a series of articles on how different approaches to healing and awakening work. So here is one on dreams.

In my experience, dreams are the mind digesting either what happened the day before (often more fragmented dreams) or an emotional issue (often more of an unfolding story and sometimes archetypal). I wonder if not this digesting happens most or all of the time, and it just happens to take the form of dreams while we sleep.

Everything in the dream is me. It’s all created by my mind and reflects parts of me and the dynamics between these parts.

The digesting inherent in dreams is likely helpful in itself, and I suspect I don’t even need to remember the dream for it to have some effect in terms of processing, healing, and gaining some insights from it.

And yet, I sometimes also explore the dream more actively, especially if it’s a strong or more archetypal dream.

Here are some of the approaches I find helpful:

Active imagination comes out of Jungian dream work, and here we go back into the dream (imagine ourselves back in it) and interact with the different elements of the dream. For instance, I can take an action and see what the response is, or I can engage in a dialogue with the different dream characters and get a sense of who they are and what they want (both on the surface and what would deeply satisfy them). There is no limit and it can yield a lot of helpful insights. Often, these insights are just at the edge of what we are conscious of, and active imagination can help make them more conscious. (I typically avoid formulaic dream interpretations since dreams seem more juicy, fluid, and sometimes individual than that.)

Active imagination is a form for parts (subpersonality) work, and if we are familiar with a form of parts work, we can use that one.(For me, Voice Dialog and the Big Mind process.)

And then there are the approaches I often write about here.

I can explore the dream through inquiry. For instance, I can do inquiry on any stressful beliefs I had in the dream or about it after waking up (The Work). I can also explore any identities the dream brought up in me, any fears, or any compulsions in the dream or after I woke up (Living Inquiries).

I can use heart-centered practices for anyone (or any thing) in the dream that seemed hurt or uncomfortable in any way. (Ho’o, tonglen, metta.)

I can use energy healing on any emotional issue brought up by the dream, or anything else the dream pointed to as needing resolution or healing. For instance, last year I had a dream about a lake being polluted, so I could intend healing for what that lake represents in me. (Vortex Healing.)

I can do some therapeutic trembling to release any tension from the dream. (TRE)

And I can use any other approach I know and find helpful.

The key is that I can explore dreams as I would anything in daily life, and I can also explore daily life as I would a dream(!). It’s the same mind creating our experience of both.

For instance, active imagination is traditionally used specifically for dreams, although it can be helpful to use it in other areas of life as well. We can use it for situations from past, present, or the imagined future, and it can help us see what these situations mean to us, how we relate to them and find other ways of understanding the situations and relating to them.

How it works: heart-centered practices

 

How do heart-centered practices work?

It depends on the particular practice, but here are some general things I have noticed.

They help me reorient. To shift from seeing something as a problem (an enemy, wrong, bad) or neutral, to befriending it, finding kindness towards it, and seeing it as a support. And this goes for anything from a situation, to another person, to myself and parts of myself, to life in general, and God.

My energy systems comes more alive and brightens.

It’s experienced as an opening of the heart. And with that comes an opening of the mind. There is more receptivity, sincerity, curiosity, and interest. (And less rigid, defensive, and fixed views.)

It helps me notice what in me is not quite on board. It helps me notice parts of me where there is still wounding, trauma, identifications, and unfelt feelings, unloved lovables, and unexamined beliefs. I can meet these, allow, rest with. Relate to them with respect, patience, and light curiosity. If it feels right, I can do the heart-centered practice for these scared and unloved parts of me. Or I can explore them through inquiry. Or invite in healing through whatever healing practices are available to me.

These shifts are naturally reflected in my life. I notice when and how this happens. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK and also an invitation to see what’s going on. Something in me may be triggered that temporarily clouds over a more clear and kind way of being.

What are some examples of heart-centered practices? The ones I am most familiar with are ho’oponopno (Hawaii), tonglen (Tibet), heart or Jesus prayer (Christianity), and perhaps also the Christ meditation. (See other articles for descriptions of these.) And there are many more from many different traditions. Heart-centered practices can be profoundly transformative, and that’s something people from all cultures and times have paid attention to.

And what’s the main reason heart-centered practices are so transformative, healing, and central to most spiritual traditions? It’s because they help us align with reality. If all is the divine, then holding onto enemy images brings us out of alignment with that reality. It creates discomfort, stress, and suffering at an individual level, and also social and even ecological problems. Reorienting helps us align with reality, which brings a sense of peace, clarity, kindness, aliveness, and a natural engagement.

Note: I have deliberately used a more conventional language some places here. For instance, everything described here is part of the divine play. It’s the divine temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being, and a being that sees parts of the world as an enemy (a problem, bad, wrong etc.). There is nothing inherently wrong in it, but it does create distress and suffering. And that’s the call back to a more conscious alignment with all as the divine.

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How does The Work work?

 

How does The Work of Byron Katie work?

As with anything else in life, it’s ultimately a mystery. But we can also say a few things about it.

Here is some things I have noticed:

It’s a confession, and we are seen by another without (or with less) judgment. And that, in itself, is somewhat healing.

And then there are some elements nearly explicit in the process itself.

We get to identify our stressful beliefs about a situation, someone else, life, or ourselves. We get to pinpoint the close (proximal) cause of our stress and suffering.

We get to see that our thoughts about it may not be as true as we initially thought. Our mind opens a bit to other possibilities, and to hold it a bit lighter.

We get to see what happens when we hold onto the thought as true. We get to see the stress and suffering it creates for ourselves, and what it does to our life and our relationship to others.

We get to imagine how it would be if we didn’t hold onto it as true. We get to imagine feeling it.

We get to consider and see the validity in the reversals of the thought, and that the initial thought, as well as its reversals, all have some limited validity to them. This also helps soften our grip on the initial thought.

We get to pick one reversal and see how it is to bring it into our life and how it is to live from it in daily life.

So we get to identify and question our initial stressful thought. Our mind is invited to soften its grip on it, and consider the validity in the reversals. And, as mentioned above, we – in the best case, if we work with an experienced facilitator – feel seen, met, understood, and not judged by another human being, and that in itself is healing, and shows us that we can do the same towards ourselves.

Another way The Work works is that it can give us clarity to act on something in our life that requires our action, and to do so with more clarity, kindness, and hopefully wisdom.