Part of last night’s dream had me talking with a bedridden old woman who had an upright bicycle parked at the foot of her bed. Suddenly she rolled toward me, forcefully trying to fall out of bed but I resisted.
This may have been a dream where my soul (the anima or female in a man’s dream) was declaring the need to get up and out of her psychic slumber and walk forward. The bike was both a symbol of a motivating force, an image of going forward, and a mandala for finding your bigger self-i.e., the wheels.
The following poem came to me as I reflected on the meanings of this dream.
Stuck in victim mode
I see only my lowest self
A loathsome self
Paralyzed and blame ridden
Lashing outside myself
Not knowing who to blame
Who to call for help
Putting others or the gods down for my
Pain my loss my failure
Stuck as victim to myself
Where is it that I say enough
And roll out of my lethargic self-loathing slumber
I did not grow up in the Christian church or any church for that matter. The first time I ever heard of the Psalms was while attending a field service in Vietnam for a friend who had died two days earlier. He was a friend who had taken my place on the night crew, for I was going out on a mission the following day. If he hadn’t, things might have been different in both our lives. I was feeling very disconnected, confused, and holding a little guilt.
The Psalm read that day during the service was called the 23rd Psalm.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
As I listened to the words, I found myself crying and Marines NEVER cry. Suddenly I found myself lifted and all my fear, anger, and sadness, the turbulent waters of my mind and heart “stilled.” For a moment, I knew that as I walked through this “valley” with death all around me, I was not alone. This gave me the strength to carry on.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the grace given to me on that day, even though I was experiencing the dark night of the soul (aka depression) and felt I wasn’t worthy of anything good. That day was the beginning of my journey toward spiritual maturity, and that day was the day I awakened to something that I later called soul. Spiritual awakenings can happen at any moment in life. They can be spontaneous, triggered by major life changes, illnesses, tragedies, and traumas such as life-threatening illnesses, accidents, divorces, midlife crises, war, and so much more. They can happen during meditation or while taking a walk around the neighborhood.
There are also those times when all seems hopeless and emotionally overwhelming, what some call The Dark Night of the Soul. If you’re highly sensitive to the suffering of others and are a deep thinker by nature, it is possible that you have gone through, or are currently going through, this dark night.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a period in life when you feel completely cut off from the Divine. The more _aware_ you become of your disconnection from the Divine, the more chances you have of experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul.
In my experience, going through this encounter with the dark night is profoundly entwined with the process of spiritual awakening, i.e., before spiritually awakening, we often “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4); that prepares our minds and hearts for it.
From the perspective of an Alchemist and Jungian analyst the Dark Night could represent the nigredo which means ‘blackness’ or putrefaction or decomposition. Many alchemists believed the nigredo was a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone or wholeness.
A sea urchin with no spines is attacked by an ugly toad intent on the urchin’s destruction. But the seemingly defenseless urchin sends out tentacles from beneath and wraps them around the toad’s neck. I am appalled and grossed out as I watch this aggressive dream.
“What is going on?” I wonder as I awake from this nightmarish scene.
As I review this dream trying to gain some insight to its meaning aggression and conflict seem to be the main theme. I am both the urchin and toad, the attacker and the attacked, the aggressor and the victim. The usual suspect comes to the fore i.e., my penchant for self-punishment. But it’s more than this same old, same old story.
As I watch helplessly the political realities of certain egos plotting to dominate the government with little or no regard for people’s lives, countries making invasion plans for no other reason than to dominate and make themselves important, random mass shootings for the same reason, and in my own tiny corner of the world a violent incident that has pitted well-meaning people against each other I am feeling overwhelmed with things that I can do nothing about but watch.
Add to all that my own self-criticism for not living up to my own standard for being and I create the inner turmoil that this dream represents. The dream brings to the fore what I try to ignore, the feeling of helplessness and depression that keeps me angry at the world and at myself.
For some reason facing this anger helps me to settle, for the truth is I have a right to be fearful and angry but need and want to also face the fact that am not totally helpless in that I can change what I do with that fear and anger. I can resist the tendency for my emotions to take me over and still do what is right to do with what is in front of me. In short, I need to be gentle with myself in all things and not give evil for evil.
As I finish up this blog, I am reminded of the poem by Max Ehrmann, the Desiderata.
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
“Without death, life would be meaningless…limitation enables you to fulfill your being.” –C. Jung
Basically he’s saying that death is a condition for the meaning of life.
Death in Dreams (The symbolic meaning)Death often relates to the ending of something. But it can also suggest our relationship, or attitude towards death e.g. how do we feel about it? As an archetype it can show up as a sunset, crossing a river, twilight, a skeleton, gravestones, a cemetery, blackness, the grim reaper, an old man, or woman, a fallen mirror, a stopped clock, or an empty abyss.
Death often shows up in our dreams during times of transition Dead animals can also be metaphors for our own demise.
“These are the woods you love where the secret name of every death is life again” Associated with death is also rebirth and resurrection. -Mary Oliver (Skunk cabbage)
Such things as a cave, or an egg, Spring, dawn, the cross, a snake, a seed, a bird taking flight (though if it were to fly off into the sunset it might suggest death), a Phoenix, flame, a pearl, or the womb.The body itself is in a constant birth, death and renewal cycle in that individual cells need to die in order to be replaced and renewed without constant injury to the body’s cells, fresh cells could not revitalize. This is the idea of creating by destroying. The Hindu god Shiva is the destroyer of the world (actually the ego—the false identification with form, and the letting go of habits and attachments). Brahma then recreates what has been destroyed. In short, all that has a beginning must also have an end. The only thing that dies according to this concept is the illusion of individuality and separateness. In this way Shiva is the great purifier.
The ancient Greeks believed that a person’s well-being depended on the opposing forces of dissolution and creation. The Caduceus with its entwined snakes and being the symbol of the healer can be symbolically linked with Psyche interacting with matter and transforming both. This idea of the snake representing both death and renewal sheds its old skin to reveal something new and revitalized, thus dying so as to be reborn.
Dead people in Dreams:In most cases this is about the dreamer trying to deal with the passing of someone close. It’s all a process of letting go and of resurrecting the one you interacted with on a physical level into the memory of that same person. For some the deceased become eternally living within the memory of those left behind.
To see a dead person in a dream:This can represent some area in ones life that has “died” such as a feeling, a relationship, or situation. Sometimes anger repressed in your waking life can kill ones vitality and satisfaction. It can also represent a part of yourself that you would like to leave behind (to see that part, look at what aspect the dead person may represent).
To see your own death in a dream:This can suggest a transformation in the way you have been, in thought, in feeling, or in attitude. It can also suggest the transition of one phase of your life into a new one.
“Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear?Who made the grasshopper?This grasshopper, I mean-the one who has flung herself out of the grass,the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.I do know how to pay attention, how to fall downinto the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,which is what I have been doing all day.Tell me, what else should I have done?Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver (the Summer Day)
“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
–William Butler Yeats
“On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a dinner party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.
And the world seems right.
But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts that whirl like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.
And nothing in the world seems right.
I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”
That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me once again’. And I remember yet again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.
I love a good meditation! And by ‘good’ I mean where I let go of any expectation thus freeing the soul to come out and play. Down deep in the caves of my being there is only mystery– nothing to figure out, no problems to solve, no worries to chew on. I love it when I can just hand myself over to the dream and the presence of the spirit. The more I can let go of the ego as the here and now definition of myself the more I can align with my soul’s larger being.
Such was the gift handed me one spring day at a coffee shop at the corner of yesterday and tomorrow when these words gilt my caffein charged musings– a waking dream meditation.
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?
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.