There is much knowledge, advice, and even wisdom at times on the pages of books, posts on the Internet, and in the minds and mouths of friends. But there’s something unique about the counsel that arises from dreams—it is as diverse and unique as we really are. For example, one person’s dream advised them to let go of caring about others’ opinions, while another’s dream advised them to take the opinions of others deadly seriously; one person’s dream encouraged them to muster the ambition to climb a mountain, while another person’s dream encouraged them to jump off (allowing them to “fly” or celebrate their climb); one person’s dream urged them to open their eyes and see more clearly, while another urged the dreamer to close their eyes and stay inside of themselves, less open to “outer” things; and there was the dream that brought inspiration to one woman with a vision of a body more healthy and youthful than her own, while another woman’s dream inspired her with a vision of herself with one foot in the grave (bringing her closer to her spiritual nature); and then there was the dream that told one person to act immediately while another dream suggested that the dreamer go in circles until she found her center.
Dreams are a door to a wonderful world of symbol and language, of perspective and insight, of soul and spirit. However, they are not for everyone. Some hold that there is no meaning in dreams, no science to support their interpretation, nothing to be found in the long hours of sleep when our conscious minds fall away. I’m clearly not of that belief.
THREE DREAMS AND COMMENTARY
Here are three dreams people have brought to me, a more general commentary, and the response I offered to the dreamer. Caveat: The responses below may not be right or useful for you. Dream interpretations need to consider the uniqueness of the dreamer’s personality, life, culture, and nature. If my comments resonate for you, then you may take it to heart; if it does not resonate, feel free to toss it aside.
DREAM #1: MAKING A STINK
Dream: “I entered a public restroom to find an enormous turd lying on the floor. I picked it up and put it in a toilet but realized it was too big to flush so tried cutting it up, but then realized it was plastic!” –Dreamer 1
Commentary: The symbol of “shit” arises regularly in dreams, often accompanied by an effort to flush it, wipe it away, or hide it. These dreams invariably offer a perspective on the habit or compulsion to keep things clean, harmonious, or free from conflict. This particular dream includes an interesting nuance—the “turd” is in a public restroom, indicating that the problem the dreamer wishes to get rid of is not only a personal one, but a public one as well. Why public? Some struggles, difficulties, and conflicts don’t only belong to us as individuals—they belong to a family or community where everyone needs to learn from or deal with what has been held back, not said, or swept under the rug. This can happen in organizations of all kinds, from churches to corporations, where some people are led to believe that they have individual problems when actually there is a bigger system in the background that needs to be exposed and challenged.
My Response to the Dreamer: “That’s a lot of shit; now matter how you slice it, it stinks! You can't flush it; you can't get rid of it; it's just there—big, smelly, rank. Of course, you want to make it go away; that’s what we all do with certain kinds of feelings, expressions, assertions, and conflicts. But the dream suggests that this won’t work. In fact, it suggests that the “stink” needs to be made public (it is a public restroom). Whatever it is, it may be time to bring it out into the open. If this feels too risky, enlist the help of others.” –David
DREAM #2: VALUING THE ELDER
Dream: “There is a very old woman, small and frail. She lives with her son whose bedroom is upstairs. She lies on her bed in a funny way with her legs up against the wall. Her son tells me that she also walks funny—turning her body right and left with each step as she walks with her cane. I say, “Sure, her spine is stiff and cannot twist, that's why she has to turn her whole body.” The son is heavyset. I tell him he should lose some weight if he wants to be agile in old age. Now we are walking with her on the street. She has her cane and leans on her son on the other side. I see that she becomes frailer and I offer to support her, too. Now she is even weaker and we have to carry her. Then I am sitting on my couch with her lying on my lap and I put a pillow under her head. She sits up and begins to hallucinate, seeing things that we cannot see. I know that her end is near and we carry her to her apartment, upstairs.” –Dreamer 2
Commentary: For most of us, being physically fit and healthy is important, as it should be. But this motivation can be limiting, especially for those whose focus on physical health is very strong or for those whose self-evaluation is tied to their physicality. Additionally, focusing exclusively on our physical being can blind us to our emotional and spiritual development, especially the development that comes with aging. This blindness is amplified by living in a culture that is often obsessed with ‘youthful’ beauty, agility, and strength and marginalizes how these qualities are expressed in our elders.
This dream shows the dreamer’s conscious point of view—they see something that looks frail, heavy, and aging as unwell and thus devalues it. However, they are learning to tend to and care for this part of themselves—a part of themselves that can dream (hallucinate) and experience other realms of consciousness or ways of experiencing life.
My Response to the Dreamer: “Oh, that old frail woman is lovely. I love how you tend to her. I want to meet her, dream with her, hallucinate with her. I think it's good that she has one foot in the other world and walks in this world with a special support/tool—a cane. This world is good—it’s helpful to have a fit and able body here, but the other world is good too and at some point this world ages us and we become tired. When this happens, walking straight ahead in linear fashion is not so much the point, but turning, maybe even spinning, gets us in touch with something else—the cycles of life, or aspects of our value, beauty, and power that are less on the surface.
I know you are also a healer. Consider using your altered states, your shamanic capacities, and your non-linear understanding of people in your practice (and with yourself for that matter). Or just sit, feel the weight of who you are (your knowledge, your experience, your centeredness) and look out from there (or look in from there). You are in connection/relationship with this deeper part of yourself and the relationship is softening, sweetening. The end is near—that means you can reach this place if you wish. Lie down, put your head on a pillow, die a little bit and let yourself dream.” –David
DREAM #3: FINDING YOUR CENTER
Dream: “A huge wave, gentle, gradual, slow, and tall—I am excited about it, like it’s a ride. I swim out towards it. I am aware that the wave is traveling to different places. I am aware specifically that it is going towards Portland and another option was Brazil. I’m opting for Portland but the wave is actually only going in those directions for a moment and then it turns concentrically—no matter where I set off towards I swirl back into the center.” –Dreamer 3
Commentary: Many of us believe we need a plan, a goal, or an agenda in order to make progress. But progress is conventionally measured in a more linear way and often in terms of outer achievement —getting closer to some goal, height, or level. This dream suggests a less conventional path.
The dream offers the image of a wave—a wonderfully fluid natural form. While the energy of the wave appears to take the dreamer in desirable directions, offering her recognizable choices, it keeps turning and centering her rather than taking her “forward.” This wave carries a radical wisdom for the person looking to get somewhere by turning them, swirling them, and urging them inward toward their center instead of outward. If the dreamer is looking outward for direction they may feel thwarted by the wave and not understand why trying to commit to a particular life direction is unsuccessful. On the other hand, if they align themselves with the wave’s wisdom, they may find a new place from which to experience their life.
My Response to the Dreamer: “It is always good to set a direction in life for our goals, ambitions, and visions as if we can propel ourselves in a certain direction with our intention and roadmap. But your dream suggests that this concern is not what is called for at the moment. Instead, stay centered (something that ambitions/goals can take you away from). Apparently you have a Portland direction/goal in life as well as a Brazil direction. These directions are not only literal, but represent a feeling or way of proceeding in life. It may be useful to reflect on what these directions/places represent for you. Know that they are both important, both compelling, but not the most important at the moment. Instead, keep coming back to your center. The wave, the central image of this dream, takes you into yourself, not out toward any one direction. From there, you will know which way to go in life. To go further, feel your tall, huge, gentle, gradual, slow, fluid self. Temporarily let go of your efforts to get somewhere. Know this fluid, slow, gentle energy is you. You are a wave. Love the wave you are—that is the fastest way; it is your way for now.” –David
Dreams are not panaceas or one-line gems to live by; they are as nuanced and diverse as nature. They blend like liquid, smash like rocks, open like flowers, and cut like knives. Sharing them renders us so wide open, so naked, that we can’t help seeing ourselves in each other—a vision of oneness not made by our sameness but instead to our connection to an underlying infinitely creative source.
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