Dreaming has been diminished in our modern Western society, relegated to a flat, limited version of its true, vast potential. We have been taught that dreaming is an activity reserved for the dark of night and the oblivion of sleep. Sometimes we remember snippets of our dreams, but even these we barely pay attention to in the rush of our demanding lives.
Half of our humanity — the part that connects us to our soul and the spiritual mysteries that underlie everyday reality — is lost in this truncated conception of dreaming.
Yet dreaming is what it is, no matter how we conceive or engage it. What is lost can be refound. It is as simple, and as difficult, as replacing one way of understanding dreaming with another.
You dream at night where the laws of physical reality slip away and open you to the unbound adventures of the realm of spirit.
You dream when you meditate, work magic or engage in other practices that shift you into an altered state of consciousness.
You dream when you go about the business of your daily life, drawing events and situations to you, especially those that are unusual, significant or emotionally charged.
This wider, wilder conception of dreaming invites you to broaden your awareness to include the workings of your soul and the spiritual mysteries that infuse and inform your life.
Dreaming is literally second nature. We have a physical body for engaging the material world and a dreambody for the wide, wild world of dreaming.
In our sleep-time dreams, where our mind and the laws of physical reality are turned off, our dreambody reigns supreme. In our daytime dreams, our dreambody is a guiding presence that helps us engage the soul-based energies and spiritual mysteries that direct our outer life.
These powerful dreaming capacities reside within us all, but for many they have atrophied through lack of attention and use.
At the beginning of my spiritual journey, I didn’t remember my sleep-time dreams nor understand the importance of dreaming in my waking life. Now my dreambody connection is as natural and ever present to me as breathing. How did I make this profound shift? First, and most essential, I fell in love with my dreambody.
Here is an exercise for reaching out to your dreambody with the intention of starting or deepening your relationship.
1. Set aside time to connect with your dreambody.
Your dreambody is most present and accessible in those initial moments between sleeping and waking when the tendrils of your dream still hover in your conscious awareness. So set your alarm a bit earlier to give yourself time to be with your dream energy and images before you need to get out of bed to start your day.
2. Work with your dream upon waking.
When you wake up, don’t let your thinking mind kick into gear. Stay with the movements and sensations of your breath, and open to the images and energy of your dream.
Imagine breathing the dream into your body and letting it fill and infuse you.
Say yes to the dream, yes to its guidance.
Don’t worry about intellectually understanding or analyzing the dream. Your intention is to connect and commune with your dreambody and its gifts of dream images and energy. Understanding will come.
If you don’t wake up with dream images, still stay soft and open in the hazy, delicious space between waking and dreaming, and know that your dreambody is present in this space. Keep practicing this exercise and dreams will come.
3. Record your dream.
When you get out of bed, write down a few key images and insights from your dream, and your emotional responses. Note any themes or issues that are present in the dream that speak to your healing and personal growth.
If you have time, record the whole dream because often it’s the subtle, background aspects of a dream that hold the treasures of insights and inspiration.
4. Bring your awareness of your dream into the rest of your day.
Whatever you were dreaming when you woke this morning is also present as you go about your daily activities. Remember that there is no separation between sleeping and waking; it is all one dream.
Pay close attention to the events and situations of your waking life, and see if they reflect and further inform the images, energies and insights that came to you from your dream.
Look for unusual, significant or emotionally charged situations. Think of these things as offerings from your dreambody that can further your understanding of the soul-based energies and spiritual mysteries that are directing your outer life at this time.
Set aside time to journal these events and situations, noting the details of what happened, the insights and emotional reactions that come to you, and the links to your dream.
5. Be changed by the dream.
Your dreams are not random. Your dreambody wants you to learn, heal and grow. The dream that came to you in this exercise, both from your sleep-time and the events of your day, is a gift from your dreambody.
Take in the images, energies and insights that have come to you from this dream. Let them change you, and commit to continue to follow where they lead.
But don’t take my word for it. The dreaming is unfolding at this very moment, just waiting for you to wake up within the dream that is your life.
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Photo Credit: Andalucía Andaluía
An edge marks a jumping off point, a cliff’s edge, or a moment of irreversible change. It’s also a border place, where one thing ends and another begins.
Transformative change is an edge. When you heed your soul’s desire to heal and grow in alignment with your deep, beautiful Self, you awaken powerful forces that will take your life in new, empowering directions.
It’s like jumping off a cliff, leaving behind the things that you know and opening yourself to what else is true and possible. And once you wake up to your soul’s desire and make this jump, you can never go back to sleep.
Your soul’s desire knows the parts of your beauty and wounding that are the keys to your deepest healing and evolution. They hold your secret longings that push you to claim a life in alignment with your deep, beautiful Self, and your best gifts and qualities.
Your fears are experts on your trigger buttons, and the inner and outer voices that order and control your life. From this mastery, they can deliver well-targeted, ‘what if’ poison darts that can paralyze your impulses to take your life in new directions: what if I lose my job?; my partner?; my sanity?; what if my mother never talks to me again?.
The push and pull of these competing forces may make you feel crazy, and cast doubts on your commitment and ability to heal and change your life. But the opposite is actually true. Strong fears indicate that you are truly riding your edge of transformative change, and getting somewhere new. This is a place of immense power if you know how to navigate its conflicting directives.
These ideas are best understood by trying them out for yourself. Here is what that process can look like.Making an Ally of Your Fears
For this exercise, work with something from your own transformative edge: what do you want to change in your life right now?
Choose something that is substantive and important to you, rather than a more surface level change. Then follow these steps:
1. Turn your awareness to your soul’s desire.
What is it your soul desires? What changes are being asked of you? What would this change look like in your life? What would be your first steps?
2. Turn your awareness to your fears.
What fears and resistance do these changes trigger? Get specific: what exactly in your life is threatened by these changes?; what ominous consequences is your fear suggesting; and, what issues and sensitivities are coming up for you?.
Engage your fears as if they are a valuable source of information, without necessarily believing in what they are saying. Think of them as focusing your attention on key aspects of your life related to the changes, rather than revealing absolute truths.
Your fears can show you: sensitive, challenge situations and personal hurts that need loving attention as part of your change process; outer roadblocks that need to be resolved; and practical consideration to help you make wise, balanced choices.
3. Consider both your desires and fears in relation to what you want to change in your life right now.
What would a wise, balanced version of this change look like? What actions will help facilitate this change? What resources do you need in place? What personal healing and development do you need to address? What roadblocks and issues do you need to proactively deal with?
What are your next steps? How do these steps offer a balance between your desires and fears? How have your fears positively contributed to this balanced approach to change?
Know that this is a border place, where the new and old, and your desires and fears collide. And it is this very collision of such potent, opposing forces that can give rise to brand-new, never-imagined options for healing and transforming your life.
Expect this process to be messy and uncomfortable, that’s why it’s called an edge. Open to your soul’s desire and make your fear your ally. Let both of these powerful forces guide your way to the life you are longing for.
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Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way home. Though this plan doesn’t seem to work out so well for them, it offers an evocative metaphor for those of us who are spiritual seekers on a journey home to a soul-based life.
My spiritual journey began in earnest the day I realized there was something essential missing from my life, that was somehow related to my soul. I was in the midst of my MBA studies, lost in a material, career-driven life, with an aching hunger for something I neither understood nor knew where to find.
No matter that I was lost, I had woken up to my spiritual hunger and decided that I needed to change. And that was enough. The Mysteries, those powerful, invisible forces that underlie our waking reality, heard my yes to change, and began to leave a trail of crumbs, in the form of life-changing encounters and events, for me to follow.
A few months later, I completed my MBA and set off on a solo backpacking adventure in Europe. Shortly into the trip, I landed on the wrong train in France, only to hook up with a fellow adventurer, who was also on the wrong train. She was a beautiful young woman from Hawaii, with an edge of wildness and burgeoning, feminine-based spirituality.
We decided to travel together, joining our itineraries. She took me to the subterranean caves of Dordogne to see Paleolithic paintings, and here I encountered the Goddess for the first time. Though I had no words or concepts to explain this encounter, I felt Her pulsing omnipresence the moment I descended into the womb-like darkness of the cave.
Somewhere along the way, I understood that I was on a Hansel and Gretel journey, and that the Mysteries and my soul were leading me home to the presence of being and soulful life that I longed for. My task was to follow the trail of crumbs, doing the soul work presented by each, knowing that the next crumb would naturally follow.
Your Hansel and Gretel Journey
As a spiritual seeker, perhaps you are also on a Hansel and Gretel journey. Whatever you have lost and whatever you are longing for, these things set you on your path of soul, leading you home to a richer, fuller expression of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts
When you say yes to your soul’s longings, you are also saying yes to the Mysteries. With these potent forces at your back, opportunities and challenges show up on your path, gifting you with their impetus for healing and personal growth.
Through a Hansel and Gretel frame, you can conceive and consciously engage the Mysteries and your everyday life as guides for your spiritual healing, growth and evolution.
Here is what this pathwork looks like.
1. Start with your soul hungers.
What longings underlie your spiritual life? What are you hungry for? What are your deepest desires? What are you seeking?
From this awareness, name your longings and say yes to the personal change these soul-based desires invoke. You don’t need to know what these changes are; what matters are your sense of the rightness of your longings, and your readiness to follow where they lead.
This yes aligns your soul-based desires with the Mysteries, or powers of life, or Goddess, or God, or however you name and understand the unseen forces and energies that direct and influence waking-world reality.
2. Look for the crumb: the gift/clue from the Mysteries to direct your pathwork.
I sometimes call this pathwork: what’s in my face now? This is not an elegant turn of phrase, but an accurate one. The crumbs that the Mysteries leave on your path reveal themselves in the opportunities, challenges and unusual incidents that are right in front of your nose, and very hard to ignore.
Turn your awareness to what is happening in your life at the moment. What are you dreaming about? What challenges or positive opportunities have come your way? What is bothering you? Exciting you? What do you find yourself drawn to or repelled by?
Now widen your awareness to catch anything unusual, unexpected or attention-grabbing that has crossed your path. These can include social exchanges, synchronistic occurrences and physical objects. I am especially fond of found magic: unexpected objects that you stumble upon or that appear out of nowhere.
License plates can deliver messages. Books can fall open to specific pages. Unusual behaviors by animals can alert you to their totemic qualities. You can feel inexplicably drawn to something. Or have your plans waylaid, only to find yourself in some other, perfect situation. The possibilities are endless.
In this pathwork, look for common, reoccurring themes or messages. The Mysteries like to repeat and reinforce their crumb clues.
3. Pick up and claim the crumb: do the healing and personal growth work that the crumb has revealed to you.
This step takes commitment and courage, because soul work is rarely convenient or comfortable, and often takes you to the painful, shadowy places in your life story and experiences.
Yet there is great beauty and power in this work of soul. You are on the trail of your Deep Self and the best of your nature and gifts. As you heal and transform the old of your pain and suffering, you unleash greater love and goodness into your life. This is the hard, but wondrous work of healing and reclaiming your soul.
What this looks like will differ for each individual and at different times on your spiritual journey. And there is no perfect way to do the work, nor a predetermined destination or ideal state you are trying to reach.
There is only the imperative to do the soul work that has come to you, to the best of your ability, and with wisdom and self-care. You can go as deep and as far as is right for you, taking the time and gathering the resources (personal and professional) you need, with the knowledge that this is a journey of many steps, big and small, where one step/crumb naturally leads to the next.
4. Eat the crumb: let yourself be changed by your pathwork.
Though this may seem obvious: you do the work in order to be changed, this step can be the most difficult of all.
To truly change on a substantive, soulful level is to come face to face with fear and resistance, both inner and from your outer environment. These negative reactions are an expected part of the process. You know you are riding your edge and getting somewhere new when you come up against strong resistance and reluctance to change.
Listen to your fear and resistance, and let them inform your pathwork without derailing it.
Open and be changed, moving forward and deeper on your journey of soul. Again, give this your best, while acting with wisdom and ensuring self-care.
5. Begin again: look for the next crumb.
One crumb leads to the next, and the next.
Relax into and trust the journey. Play, keep your sense of humor, and stay with love, especially when the going gets tough.
Be curious and don’t over analyze, this journey will change you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. The more loose and open you are, the more profound and life-changing the adventure.
Follow your instincts and wisdom. Make sure you have the healing support and guidance you need, both personal and professional. Always put self-care first.
After almost thirty years as a spiritual seeker, I am still following my path of crumbs. The pathwork changes as I change, taking me deeper into the roots of my life story and experiences. With each crumb, I shed the old and become something new, coming home ever more deeply to my Deep Self and best nature.
It is still a path that requires great courage and commitment, though the forest is no longer dark and scary, and the challenges and struggles are tempered by the well-spring of love and power that has become my natural state of being.
I never cease to marvel at the wide, wild journey I have been on, from the profoundly unhappy and disconnected young woman I was, lost in a material, soulless life, to the woman I am now, comfortable in my own skin and beholden to what is best and beautiful inside of me.
In all these things, and so many more, I know that Hansel and Gretel have indeed revealed a great truth: that we can only ever find our way home one crumb at a time.
Artist: Ted Chin (tedslittledream.com)
The Goddess tells me one thing over and over again: to heal and evolve this world, we need to become something different. We need to be love.
Though these words sound simple, what do they really mean? What is this love? And how do we go about being love?
To answer the question: what is this love, I have to tell you a story.
I was attending a workshop on the Buddha’s doctrines on love. As the teacher delivered his dharma talk on this topic, I shifted into a meditative state and opened to this love he spoke about.
Later, in my connection with the Goddess, I came to understand this place or part of me as the golden love of the Goddess that had little to do with my pre-conceived notions of love, and everything to do with my direct experience in the Buddhist workshop.
This isn’t the romantic love of Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards, nor a warm, enveloping, motherly love, but something woven into the very fabric of existence — sometimes fierce, tugging and unrelenting, like the ocean calling us back to its life-sustaining waters — sometimes hot, sensual, igniting, like the skin-on-skin of a lover’s touch — other times gentle, accepting, peaceful, like the hands of the Goddess cupping us in their infinite interior — always as close and intimate as our breath, yet also way beyond our limited human conception of things — something of soul, of body, of experience, not mind.
What I know, beyond all doubt, is that we are this love. Our very beings are woven of its golden strands, and our most sacred purpose is to be love.How Do You Go About Being Love?
To answer the question: how do you go about being love, I offer you a meditation exercise.
1. Start with a simple breath meditation.
Take several full, deep breaths, following the sounds and movements of your inhalations and exhalations. Feel your body soften. Empty your mind of thoughts and worries. Relax.
2. Turn your awareness inward.
Imagine stepping away from your mind’s way of understanding the world, and into the vast wisdom and knowing of your body and soul. Ask to be shown the love that you are. Keep your focus on your breath, with your body soft and your mind quiet and curious, and see what comes to you.
The challenge in this exercise is to get completely out of your own way, letting go of all preconceived notions and expectations, including the story I have just told you.
Be profoundly still and open, and let the love pour into this emptiness.
3. Bring this exercise to a close.
Before you complete your meditation, imagine lighting up your whole being — mind, body and soul — with the golden energy of this love. Totally immerse yourself in the love that you are, and the love that is everywhere and in all things.
Let this connection change you, in whatever way is good and right for you at this moment.
When you are done, use your breath to fully return to your physical form and waking consciousness. Pat your body and say your name out loud. Then slowly, softly get up and continue on with your day.
In the days that follow, and every time you do this meditation, pay attention to any shifts in how you conceive and engage yourself and your outer existence. Set the intention to embody and experience this golden love of the Goddess in your everyday life.
Trust that these things will change you in profound ways. You’re healing and evolving yourself and our world. You are being love.
We humans aren’t good or bad, beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect, but some complex weaving of all of these things. To witness, embrace and hold space for the totality of our being is a very potent practice that can bring the transformative magic of healing and change to our lives and world.
I am on a hike with a dear friend in a wild area close to the ocean. A creek runs through a small, verdant valley, guarded over by towering evergreen trees. We stop walking, stop speaking, and gaze in slack-jawed wonder at this miniature Garden of Eden, arising from a fertile meeting ground of dappled sunlight and rich, moist soil. The beauty is visceral, a shining green luminescence that thrums up against my own shining core.
“We are this beautiful inside,” I tell my friend.
Later this same day, another dear friend shares a story about having to explain to her ten-year-old son what an army is. Her explanation went something like this: “I am so sorry to have to tell you this, but we give money to a group of people who use it to buy weapons that they use to kill other people.”
This is not a judgment of the courageous individuals in the armed forces who risk their lives in service to their countries, but more a paring war down to its simplest terms and seeing the horror, the ugly, at its core.
We humans are this ugly inside. Not just in relation to war, but in the many terrible, destructive things we do to each other and to our planet home.
Both of these statements are true. We have a whole lot of beauty and a whole lot of ugly inside of us and in our world. These two polar forces, inside and outside, battle for dominion over our soul. And it is here, in these opposing forces, that you find the transformative magic at the heart of your life story and our human experience.The Gift of the Beauty and the Ugly
This is never an easy conversation to have. If you are like most people, you’ve been socialized to push away and transcend the bad and the ugly, and to aspire to the good and the beautiful, while skating around the edges of the uncomfortable, unsavory parts of your own personality and our human society.
If you can do this, become big and wise and courageous enough to embrace these disparate aspects of your life and our world, deep healing and change happens.
A light turns on, revealing what once was hidden: the roots of your stories of wounding and pain, and the profundity of your gifts and powers. And in this place of greater awareness, you get to choose which of these two parts of your human experience to dedicate your life to. You can chain yourself to the ugly or you can embrace your beauty.
And in this choice making, where you show up and take responsibility for the full range of your nature and experiences, you determine the fate of your soul and your life, and that of our world. This is the gift of the beauty and the ugly.The Transformative Magic of Your Life Story
Though these ideas may seem abstract, and perhaps even apocalyptic, the beauty and the ugly play out in the everyday of your life, and this is where real change can happen.
Take for example your imperfection, your personal ugly, that reveals itself in the aspects of your personality and life story that reflect your dysfunction and struggles. First, to be clear, there is no such thing as unsullied beauty and perfection. The ideal of perfection that we’ve been indoctrinated to believe in, and can never measure up to, is a lie, a distortion that blocks our personal healing and growth.
So why not try a different approach, sourced from the sacred feminine, where you show up to the aspects of your life that you see as your personal imperfection, and hold them in the loving embrace and awareness of the beauty inside of you. This is what the process looks like.
1. Start with personal awareness. Bear witness, without judgment or analysis, to your current state of mind in relation to your personal imperfection.
Pay attention to your internal tape about yourself and your life.
What do you see as the imperfect parts of yourself? How do they play out in your life?
How do you treat these personal imperfections? Do you push them away and judge yourself? What emotions do they evoke?
What deeper beliefs underlie your treatment of your imperfection? Do you see yourself as flawed? Do you measure yourself against some outer ideal or yardstick? What is this ideal or yardstick?
2. Access the beauty inside of you, the part of you that holds your love, compassion and self-acceptance. Connect with your perceived imperfection from these beautiful parts of your nature.
Step to one side of your self-judgment and current way of conceiving and engaging your imperfection. Let go of these beliefs and thoughts, if only for the moment.
Step into your beauty. Imagine it bubbling up from the core of your being and filling you with self-love and compassion.
Look for the perfection in your imperfection – what it teaches you about yourself and how it can guide your healing and positive growth.
3. Hold space for the totality of your being. You are both the part that pushes away and judges your imperfection, and the part that loves and accepts you as you are.
You are not good or bad, beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect, but some complex weaving of all of these things.
This is not an idea, it is a way of being where you access that part of you that is big, wise and courageous enough to embrace and contain all that you are.
Find this bigness of being inside of yourself and open wide to everything you have experienced and learned about your imperfection and your beauty in this exercise. Imagine yourself as a strong, resilient vessel that can hold the tension and power in the meeting and mixing of these opposing energies.
Don’t be surprised if this feels distressing and difficult. Our human psyche likes dualistic, either-or categories of good versus bad, and beauty versus ugly, and this exercise is outside of its comfort zone. Stay with the discomfort, without trying to repress or resolve it. You are increasing your capacity to be present to the truth that is your life.
What comes next is unknown. You have activated the transformative magic of your life story, both its ugly and beauty, and change will come.Transforming Our Collective Ugly
It is this same transformative magic and bigness of being that can not only heal and evolve your life, but also our world. And this brings us back to the story that began this post.
You, and each of us, are indeed as luminescent lovely as the slice of Garden of Eden I came across on my hike with my friend. And we each have the ugly of human society inside of us that begets war and the countless other abuses and atrocities of our species.
Both these things are true, and both offer us the greater awareness and choice making that can mend and transform our collective ugly from our bigness of being and deepest beauty. Then maybe, just maybe, we will someday live in a world where a child won’t need to ask a parent, “What is an army?”