The shadows that bring light

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Below is an excerpt from a story about a young man whose life was opened up to him in a very mysterious way. This part of the story speaks of an aspect of all of us that seems very dark but can have the most enlightening affect if one knows how to work with it.

 

“There is an ancient invocation that goes ‘As it is above, so it is below, as within, so without’” he said as he once again patted the green book next to him. “This is more a reminder than an invocation really because it tells us that we can find out what is inside by looking closely at the outside. This is because we are always projecting ourselves onto the outside world. For example, if we want to see our shadow, look to see what or whom disturbs us, or what we reject. This is easier to do if you can place yourself somewhere between the two worlds of the conscious and unconscious that are both reflections of the one world.

 It is like a tree that has its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens. To do this you must accept that you do not know what you do not know. You do this by not letting what you think you know get in the way of what there is to know. This will place you between the known and unknown, the conscious and unconscious and allow you to be open to discovery.

 Shadows can be your fears, disgust, rejections, feelings of abandonment, prejudices, judgments, repressions of memories, biases, negative thoughts and all your personal madness that can then be projected onto others that you meet or onto objects and events. You can see yourself, see your shadows, madness, and level of enlightenment through what you see in others. Even the goodness in others can point to that unconscious aspect in yourself. What is inside is inextricably connected to what is outside in a very profound way. When not separated from the rest of reality you become all of it, what is labeled good and what is labeled bad. The turbulent winds out there in the world that buffet you are the winds generated from within you.”

Every person and every event in the world speaks to us if we have the ears to listen. Everything is a guide into our deeper and most essential self if we are willing to take the journey.

 

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A broken hallelujah

This poem came to me out of a nightmare that I had a couple of nights ago.

 

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No one behind the mask

Open him up and there’s no one there.

No one to love

No one to care.

 

Something is missing

No one to come home to when alone

Where did he go?

When did he leave?

 

Born a hallelujah

But the mask lost him early on

Early on, early on the mask he did don

And he disappeared.

 

He cannot help you

Because he can’t even help himself

Do not go looking for he isn’t there

He isn’t there, he just isn’t there.

 

No one to laugh, no one to cry

But with every word you can hear him scream

Hear his pain

Hear him lie about what he could have been.

 

But he is asleep to this world

And asleep to himself.

He doesn’t even see us, you and I

For the eyes of his mask are empty.

 

Empty because there’s no one behind

No one behind

Behind the mask he wears

But just another broken hallelujah.

 

Lost at sea

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A sad and very dark dream filled my sleeping space not too many nights ago. When I awoke I jotted down the essence of its feeling, the images having become but wisps in the light of day.

Water, symbolic of my emotional state. When I just stuff my unhappiness under the rug or down deep into my hidden psyche because I feel helpless to it the unconscious will only let me get away with it for just so long then it bursts forth in an unsettling dream, demanding to be heard.

 

The dream (often my dreams read like a poem):

 

There’s a Sadness like dead matter floating down through the water deep

I’m enveloped by panic and struggling to regain the surface

Thrashing about but only treading

Until the weight of it all drags me under

 

 I can only distract for acceptance is not yet here

When will I know? Will happiness ever return or

Is all I’m doing is just giving in? Trying to let go brings depression

Is letting go just giving up?

 

 I wonder if there’s a bottom?

Maybe it’s like a black hole, never ending

Until you’re crushed beyond recognition.

Or will I just sit at the bottom and be eaten up by the darkness?

 

 How did I fall off the boat?

Was I pushed, did I jump?

Was I careless or too awkward?

When did I realize that I was never going to get home?

 

Home, I don’t know what it looks like anymore.

It’s been so long I don’t really remember it.

Was it peaceful? Was it happy?

Did I love? Was I loved? Did it matter?

 

I really want to go home!

Maybe if I just stopped struggling

and let it

sink…

 

 

 

 

Another Pandemic Dream

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In a recent post I talked about the vivid dreams people seem to be having during the Coronavirus lockdown. Several people have shared their dreams and experiences during the lock down and I thought I’d share an example of what many people are experiencing along with my response to them.

The dream:

 Hi , thank you for reading this! Last night I had 2 very distinct dreams: 1st dream: I watched 3 tornados form in my back field (NE), and a bolt of lightening nearly struck my 7 year old, standing on the back porch. I was able to get my son and 2 dogs into our safe spot. We were fine. 2nd dream : Real life -I have 5 cats (we live on 10 acres). My cats are inside/outside . I fear that I will loose them but I also know they are willing to take the risk and are very happy. Dream: I watched 3 large coyotes move in and surround The house/the back porch once again; where the cats love to hang out. I made eye contact with the largest coyote and held its gaze, walk past all of the coyotes and was able to have all the kitties come into the garage and lock it down. No harm came to anyone. I know there was a 3rd and I can’t recall it. I know it’s there though. Honestly it was odd feeling when I woke up, curious and not fearful or worried. In an odd way it was very reassuring that I will be able to keep my loved ones safe. I do believe there will be 3 waves of the virus. Recently I have been connecting on a spiritual side with Gaia and embracing those beliefs. We have started celebrating pagan holidays as well. Thoughts?

Interpretation: I use the image suggestions from the book Morpheus Speaks to assist in the interpretation.

These all seem to be anxiety type dreams and probably reflect the inner emotional turmoil that you are experiencing right now. Bad weather dreams often reflect the state of ones emotions. Children often reflect the ambitions or future aspirations of the mother and in the dream this has been attacked (by the lightning). Note also that lightning can symbolize an inspiration or insight as well. The “safe spot’ could be your subconscious dealing with the ‘troubled waters’/situation/circumstances you see yourself in at the moment and your need to stay safe in order to protect your family.

The kittens can be about vulnerability, yours and your sons, to the wildness of the circumstances you are having to face down (the coyotes). Overall the dream is suggesting that you can face up to the threats you are encountering. The coyotes could also reflect your animal nature, your instinctual feelings. They can also come to us in our dreams as spirit guides and speak to our inner power and their symbolic energies (which yours does). You have it within you to face down whatever threatens you at this time.

Note also that in Native American lore the coyote is a trickster come to stir things up in one’s life and to test one’s mettle and to challenge one’s traditional way of looking at things (this is why some theologians think of Jesus as a trickster symbol). Consider also that the coyote may reflect an aspect of your own personality such as being clever and resourceful (the raven is also one of these animals).

Dreamer’s response (partially edited for privacy):

I felt it was a message that we would be safe, to trust myself and my instincts. I am capable of navigating and caring for my family during these times.  My son’s health is compromised and life for all of us in a bit challenging right now.

I didn’t pick up on my internal struggle until this weekend.  I see it clearly now, in the dreams about the tornados and in my most recent.   I have been on the fence about some very personal beliefs and how to accept the changes that I have undergone and the impact they may have on my relationships.  Yet I saw this weekend that I will become stagnant and unhealthy if I do not move forward. Plus, to trust my instinct regardless of how they materialize within the world at large.

Comments:

This dream is full of very vivid images that mostly relate to the dreamer’s emotional state and they reflect what is going on with them during their day. Note also that with most dreams there is new material or insights that one may not have focused on during the waking hours. The unconscious mind from whence dreams come picks up on what’s happening while the conscious mind is busy trying to survive and during the download process of dreaming can provide a wealth of information that the waking mind may not have noticed. This dream had the potential to create powerful change through new insight. Most dreams if not all come in the service of our health and well-being.

There were also archetypal symbols such as the coyote/trickster in this dream that have somewhat universal meanings beyond the unique meaning that the dreamer brings into the dream.

 

Youtube: Morpheus Speaks

 

This book opens the reader to the world of the unconscious, the deeper psyche with both its lighter and darker aspects. With sections on universal dream symbols, fantasy creatures, shadow aspects, and nightmares this book provides insights to ones dreams beyond the everyday. It is an encyclopedia of over 5000 dream symbols collected from over 3500 dreamers across 140+ countries and cultures. Though it cannot cover all possible meanings it can direct both the beginner and journeyman dream interpreter to a broader insight into their unconscious mind and then lead them through the process of applying this information to their everyday life.

Down The Rabbit Hole

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Alice In Wonderland – Down The Rabbit Hole is a painting by Christopher Clark

Last May (5-7-19) I wrote about the rabbit hole as a metaphor for falling emotionally into an abyss i.e., a feeling of “emotional overwhelm, loss of control, and alienation” and thought I would look at some of the symbols that often appear in dreams that speak to this emotional theme.

Transition symbols in dreams such as a cave, hole, tunnel, or a hallway can lead one into the unconscious and a transformed state. When Alice fell down the rabbit hole she entered a period of confusion and chaos, a place of change and transformation.

“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. 

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

­–Lewis Carroll

The word “suddenly” is often a clue to a nightmarish quality of impending doom and a feeling of having been caught off guard and made vulnerable. Falling itself has a meaning that speaks to failure, the failure to be cautious. As she fell down the hole she said to herself,

After such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house.”

The “Rabbit Hole” is an allusion to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. To go “down the rabbit hole” is to enter a period of chaos or confusion but also it’s a metaphor for both jumping into something new and stressful and a recreation of ones life from one way of being to another without any knowledge of how it will turn out. It can also have darker meanings that speak to deepening depression and sense of loss.

Let’s look at a few dream symbols frequently associated with this type of dream:

 A hole can represent the start of a change—a transformation. Where does it lead?

The cave in a dream often represents inner or hidden issues. It is a part of the underworld, your underworld—the unconscious. What do you find in your cave? What are you keeping hidden? Where does it lead?

A tunnel in a dream speaks to a pathway you may have created into your unconscious, an opening to your innermost feelings and memories. It can also be the way to a birth of something (a rebirth or resurrection of something) as in the birth canal. Where does it lead?

A hallway can reveal how various parts (aspects) of you (your house) connect. A hallway can represent a means for the outside world to enter your intimate life. Where does it lead?

The rabbit hole one enters may also represent regression—a turning inward, sometimes to escape from problems. Wasn’t this what Alice was doing?

All presuppose an entrance which is often seen as a symbol for new experiences, or the passing between of one state of being or feeling into another leading to a new realization. Where does it lead?

They also suggest transit—a symbol for change. Where, or what are you transiting toward?

The rabbit hole as an abyss can be a “symbol of great depth often signaling the profound and infinite.” (Morpheus Speaks, page 6, 2019) It can be about the fear of a loss of control or identity and it’s often a symbol for depression. Where does it lead?

Notice how all the above form their own coherence—the internal logic of your dreams also provides information. Dreams are not just meaningless chaos, unless of course you have one that is just meaningless chaos, and that too means something!

Note also the repeated question, “Where does it lead?” This is the mystery inherent in most dreams (and in life as well?) and in much of the material hidden in one’s unconscious mind that has come to the surface in a dream. What I call Rabbit Hole Dreams can reveal some of the most exciting aspects of the human condition, the human psyche, and the spirit within.

What threatens our well-being

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Jogging along a mountain path a panic stricken young man passes me in the opposite direction with a pack of howling dogs hot on his heels. As he careens around the corner a few of the dogs break off from the pursuit and begin to surround me. As I stand there petrified one creeps up behind me and menacingly begins to nip at the back of my neck. I want to run but can’t move. The others start to move in on me and panicked I will myself awake.

Yep it was a good old-fashioned nightmare. These typically come to us when we are not paying attention to something urgent or something threatening in our environment so after writing it down I went looking for what was happening in the waking world that would manifest in my dreams as these attacking dogs.

The night before I watched part of the Impeachment proceedings against the American President. The process has been very upsetting including the President’s behavior up to and including his inappropriate actions that drew the condemnation and investigation that has lead to his being held accountable. His verbal attacks and those of his political party have seemed so vile, vicious, polarizing, and demoralizing that I’ve found it too distressing to watch all that is going on so in order to stay centered in that quieter place within myself I’ve been trying to change the negative narrative in my head. Of course this never works because as with anything we try to suppress or any negative narrative we try to write over it remains waiting for a chance to make itself known like the palimpsests of ancient manuscripts where hidden writings beneath later writing can reveal new and often deeper material.

Many psychologists believe that much of the distasteful material we suppress so that we don’t have to deal with it only festers beneath the surface informing our feelings, beliefs and actions usually in a negative way. In short, this material doesn’t disappear but works its power beneath the surface until we bring it to the light and deal openly with it.

Over time I’ve learned that my dreams have access to this material and will occasionally and in the service of my health and well-being come forth in a nightmare to give me opportunity to deal with it.

Biting dogs can be about disloyalty, aggression (felt or toward another), and/or betrayal. “Biting can also represent ‘biting’ remarks your own or coming from others both of which I find I am doing and feeling. It’s hard to not take the President’s nastiness personally even though he’s not talking about me but he does represent an attack on values, things I hold dear, such as being open and working with others, being civil, empowering and not demeaning others, caring for someone other than myself, honesty, integrity and willingness to work for the greater good. These are things that I think both sides of the current civil unrest could agree upon though the finer definition of each might be negotiable.

The current unrest has been useful I think in that it clearly and keenly highlights what we really value and what can destroy or diminish the expression of that value. It also highlights the negative effects of unchecked, unmanaged, and paralyzing fear, at least in myself. My own undealt with fear has sometimes made me into a biting dog so that it is also I who visits my dreams as a pack of dogs threatening my own well being.

 

The 7 deadly disaffectors or separators: That which separates us from our better selves and the Spirit within

 

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The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things– attributed to Hieronymus Bosch (1500)

 

 

This is another in a series of posts on developing a peace within in order to be a Peacemaker.

As a result of a nightmare my granddaughter and I were discussing, of all things, the so-called Seven Deadly Sins. First of all we had trouble naming them and then ran into the difficulty associated with the word, “Sin”. When you look at their definition you can see that they each have a little of each other in their character and a case can be made that there is a positive embedded within each as well.

Lust- desire, longing, gluttony

Greed- craving, longing, ambitious

Envy- resentment, lusting, longing, ambitious

Gluttony- greed, lust, longing, ambitious

Sloth-idleness, indifference

Pride-self-regard, ambitious

Wrath- anger, indignation, displeasure.

All are extremes of self-regard i.e. self-centeredness, and of the ego-self. When the focus is on the self it has less room for others, and one becomes exclusive rather than inclusive, disconnected rather than connected, and separated versus belonging.

She and I came to the conclusion that short of becoming an ascetic monk each in moderation would bring about greater spiritual, emotional, and psychological harmony than would be available if one were to allow any of them to take one over.

Each of us has an ego, that part of us that we identify as being our self, and each ego is dedicated to the emotional and psychological survival of the self. Notice that I don’t include the spiritual survival of the self for that is of the greater Self, that which includes everything and everyone and that which is not of the body, but transcends the body. To the degree that one walls themselves off from this greater Self through the ego-sustaining activities of the “seven deadly sins” is the degree to which one separates them from the greater Self.

We also decided that when we looked at these so-called “sins” in this way, when we defined them in moderation, that achieving their opposite character was much more attainable.

But then she asked what does one do when they notice that they have been taken over by any of the seven?

My answer comes from having worked for over 30+ years with children and families in a therapeutic environment as well as the work I’ve done on and for myself. To try and eradicate any so-called sin from your behavior only gives it more energy and thus more power over you. In short, abstinence and resistance doesn’t work in the long run because this only suppresses i.e. hides them and allows them to rise once again, usually at the least opportune time. Ultimately these behaviors are but symptoms of inadequately dealt with unmet needs.

Bottom line: Being negative with a symptom only adds to the negativity of the symptom.

The trick is to not try to eradicate them but to get through them. Looking for the motivation behind the “sin” will help you work with it. For example, if you’re feeling lonely and want to feel more connected you might experience anger or envy or greed or even lust when what you really want is to feel connected and cared for. This adds a more positive spin and uses the negative experience of the “sin” as an indicator for ones needs that need to be better met.

In short, sorting out the positives from the negatives is the best way of dealing with the darker aspects of our natures. Rather than fighting with the negatives, walk into them and explore. If the negative comes up a lot, look to see what from the past may have generated it and what from the present has triggered its return.

For example, certain people’s (male or female) will trigger great annoyance in me. “Annoyance” in this case becomes my indicator that a ‘complex’ associated with my mother’s hypercritical nature has been triggered and that I’m responding to the feeling of being unaccepted. This feeling of insufficiency or “less than” often triggers a version of one or more of the “sins”, usually pride or wrath. I suggest that the trigger for all of the sins is some experience of insufficiency and the need to bring balance or equilibrium to that.

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Be the change you want.

 

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From Deviantart.com

I had a very restless night recently. There was lots of conflict and judgment, demeaning putdowns and threats that had me waking up every couple of hours. Definitely my soul was not at peace this night and it continued into my next meeting of the morning.

“Blessed are the Peacemakers.” What is Peace? Is it something without conflict? Is it something outside ourselves that can be attained if certain actions are taken? Can you be an effective Peacemaker if you yourself are not at peace? Can there be any peace within you if you are without forgiveness? If you are conflicted with parts of yourself warring with each other, can you be at peace? Do you need to be at peace with all parts of yourself in order to be a Peace Maker?

These are pretty heady questions and came up during a recent men’s group discussing the Beatitudes of the Christian New Testament. I think that the consensus was that the degree to which one could be at peace with their own shadows, their own demons and struggles–the degree to which one has been able to reconcile with ones inner conflicts–is the degree to which one can be an effective Peace-maker.

To protest with a placard, stump for money and believe in the goal of Peace-making does not alone a Peace Maker make. One needs to work on their own shadow nature, their own inner animal.This is not to say that one cannot be a Peace Maker until they’ve handled all their issues, we wouldn’t have anybody working toward peace if that were true. It is just so much easier when we don’t have ourselves as an obstacle to peace i.e., when we are able to identify in ourselves that which keeps conflict stuck in the world.

One of the advantages of the dreamtime is that it will present our hidden shadows without protection, just the raw demon in all its scales and warts. Once one has committed to dealing honestly with these parts of themselves in a compassionate way it is surprising how their negative energy that worked against them can be integrated toward a greater personality less run by fear and more through true free-will.

My wife and I have worked with elementary school children in conflict resolution i.e., how to deal with bullies on the playgrounds of life but we don’t work with the children on how to deal with their inner bully. Failure, off-handed parental negatives, and mean comments on the playground all take their toll and help to create an inner bully that can wreak havoc on a child’s self-image.

We try to build up a child’s self-image but all children notice when one child is favored over another or that some children appear to be gifted with one talent or another. We want to reward the child who does well but doesn’t this also reinforce comparison i.e. “look at what you are not” or “You could be like Johnny or Sarah if you just worked hard enough”. But the child knows that’s not always true and another chink is gouged out of their esteem.

And what about the lie that all of us can be anything we want to be? What happens when we discover that we aren’t good enough or don’t have the requisite talents to be what we want to be and what about those who don’t live in the right neighborhood?

It’s inevitable that life will chip away at our esteem and help create an inner image of self that is less than our ideal or doesn’t stand up to the promise that society presents us. These failure images eventually take on a darkness that is hard to shine a light on so most of us won’t bother and relegate these shadows to the hidden reaches of our minds. But although hidden that doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to affect our lives.

Now I’m not suggesting that we open these cans of worms with young children but teaching them how to handle their own fears and anger and inner right and wrong conflicts, and personal failures and negatives might help them to be more at peace with themselves and perhaps be more peaceful adults. To have peace in the world requires that we work on ourselves that is, to work on where peace really resides.

A true Peace Maker I believe needs to work on being peaceful within themselves as well as doing what they can outside themselves to create a more peaceful world. This adds more meaning to the phrase, “Be the change you want”.

Hope

 

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Why am I lying here trying to convince myself that there’s no hope left?  Well you see if it’s gone, then it won’t hang around and taunt me. And it’s always taunting, hiding, promising, and just out of reach.

Hope is like a smoldering cinder that never takes flame but lurks in the burned out fires of my soul driving me onward in search of something to ignite and burst once again into the conflagration that was my youth. But hope hurts especially when its object never comes to pass.

So what is this little glimmer that still burns at the bottom of my soul?

Maybe it’s the magic I’ve so craved and so needed, maybe it will be right around the next corner.

Maybe the awe will return. Maybe it’ll all come into focus and then I’ll know there WAS some purpose.

I hope so.