I dream of being with a woman elder who teaches me about a clan of good men with special spiritual energy that have been with humanity throughout our history. Then the dream shifts. I’m waiting on a street corner on my island home for a man to pick me up and give me a ride. I intuitively know that he’s part of this clan: a good man, and a teacher and holder of this special energy. The car pulls up. He smiles and greets me. I get in the car and then the dream ends.
In my waking-world life, I know this man, and he is indeed of this special clan of good men whose presence and deeds can open hearts, heal souls and change our world. He’s a poet, teacher and Zen practitioner — a brilliant yet humble man, with gentle, penetrating eyes that seem to take in our world of beauty and sorrow with a deep love, wisdom and crinkle of humor.
Oddly, the good man isn’t our cultural ideal of the masculine. Instead this ideal venerates “real men” who emulate a rugged self-determinism founded on domination and personal gain. In the battle for supremacy in our shared social order, real men fight their way to the top of the pile, reaping the rewards of wealth, power and adulation, indifferent to the price others pay for their success. Our modern political, social and economic systems are founded on this masculine ideal of dominion, will to power, and unfettered self-interest and greed.
It can be hard to recognize the good men among us given the long shadow of our cultural, real-men ethos. Many of us have experienced harm at the hands of an abusive man, or because of the misogynist roots and toxic male and female stereotypes that permeate our social order. Others may have a strong political or intellectual viewpoint that understands the role that men and patriarchal institutions have played in the worst of our human history and current malaise.
Yet there are good men in our midst, with big hearts and spirits, gifting their best in service of others and our world. And these men, with their positive masculine traits, are desperately needed as partners, allies and role models in the mending and renewing of our human society.
When I shared my good-man dream with my poet neighbor who appeared as the good man in my dream, he replied, “Yes, there are such men without a doubt. I’m glad you know, Karen. That, in itself, is worth all the dreams.”
Here is a simple exercise for claiming this powerful, healing good-man medicine in your own life.
1. Start by turning your attention to the good men in the public sphere, living and historic.
Who are your heroes: men you admire for their good nature and good deeds? What gifts do they give to the world through their beliefs, writings, teachings and actions? What kind of positive change do they bring about? What impact do they have on the hearts and souls of others? How do they make the world a better place? Consider the common qualities that you admire in these men.
2. Carry these good men with you in your heart and thoughts for a day.
Imagine them as your companions as you go about your day-to-day life. Try to see the world through their goodness and best qualities. Notice these qualities in yourself and in others. Let your experiences widen your heart and change you.
3. Bring your awareness closer to home, to the good men in your family, community and workplace that more directly impact and influence your life.
With these more intimate connections, remember that no person can be all good, and that you may have a hard time seeing those near to you as fitting the good-man ideal because of some imperfection or inconsistency in their personality. Don’t look for perfection. Instead, consider the men in your life who have a good heart, give of themselves to others, and have a positive impact on the world around them.
4. Again, carry these good men with you in your heart and thoughts for a day.
See the world through their goodness and best qualities. Notice that the good-man ideal applies to everyday men in everyday circumstances, and that the men in your life have positive, life-affirming traits outside of our cultural, masculine stereotypes.
5. Choose a simple way to honor the good men in your personal life and the greater world.
You could tell one of these good men how much you appreciate them, share a positive article about men on social media, or better still, decide to change something about yourself in alignment with the good-man ideal, knowing that a positive masculinity is part of our human nature, available to all of us regardless of our biological gender or gender identity.
In doing these things, we can step outside of the culturally imposed masculine, and begin to dismantle and replace its restrictive, toxic parameters with the bigness of being, heart and soul that is the true, best essence of men and masculinity.
These things shake us awake from our disquieted acquiescence to the real-man cultural ideal. We widen our gaze to the good men and their positive masculinity. We remember: that our hands and our hearts are made for service to ourselves, each other and our Earth home; that good deeds, founded in love, compassion, justice and beauty, are the true markers of the best of our humanity; and that these life-affirming choices and actions are not just the responsibility of the good men of our world, but of each and every one of us.
Together we can claim the dream of the good man as our new cultural ideal of masculinity.
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I’m at a pagan spiritual retreat, helping to lead ritual. I guide our group in a breath exercise that’s a mirror of the process of deep change. We breathe and move in the space together, turning our awareness inward on the inhale, and outward on the exhale, shifting from self focus to other focus.
On the inhale, I ask the question: how do you want/need to change; and on the exhale: how do others need you to change? We continue this breath and attention process, over and over again: inward to outward, self to other, personal change versus change in others, seeking our individual place and purpose in this time of collective transformation.
The dream ends leaving me with an insight into my relationship with my aging parents. What they need from me and my siblings is not only our well-intended support, but also more asking and listening on our part: what do you want? need? how can we best support you in this time of transition and endings?Dream Teaching
Although this dream ends on a personal note, it’s really a big picture dream that addresses the pressing question: how do we find our place and purpose in these edgy, transformative times we live in? Do we focus on personal change that arises from our life story and circumstances? Or do we dedicate ourselves to outer change? What drives deep transformation: our individual narrative and journey, or societal, outward-focused action?
In this era of the #metoo and #neveragain movements, people are showing up to their personal pain and translating it into a collective force for deep-rooted, desperately needed social change. A raw, authentic, irrepressible power is released in this fusion of inner and outer, and self and other that is challenging the very foundations of our status quo reality with its battle cry: enough is enough, and the time of change is now.
You don’t need to be marching in the streets to participate in this epic, global movement. Instead you can keep things simple and close to home, beginning with wherever you are right now in your life. Just follow the practice offered by my dream.
Breathe, deep and slow, turning your awareness inward and then outward, from self to other, over and over again: how do you want/need to change? how do others need you to change?
Listen deeply to yourself. Listen deeply to those around you. Listen deeply to the sorrows of the world that call to you. How can you best support yourself and others in this time of transition and endings? What is your place and purpose in the making of a saner, kinder and more loving world? Whatever you discover can guide your journey of healing and transformation, both personally and in your greater environment, at whatever depth and pace are right for you at this time.Lesson in Pagan Dreaming
Dreams are not just about powerful ideas and insights. They’re also emotional experiences. Often dreamwork focuses primarily on the images and content of the dream. Just as important is how the dream makes you feel, and this too is part of the dream teaching.
My dream begins with a group, collective experience, and shares a breath and awareness practice for deep inner and outer change. This is the primary content of the dream. Yet the dream isn’t done with its offerings; it finishes with an intensely tender, emotional part of my life: my love and support of my aging parents.
This is raw and real for me. In the dream, I connect with the visceral, vital power of my love and compassion for my parents, and my desire to do my very best to listen and support them in this last part of their lives.
This dream tells us to breathe, to love, and to listen from our deepest, most tender heart and best self, not just to those close and dear to us, but also to ourselves, and the many others in our lives, even those that we may see as our enemy. Death is a messy, emotional business, as is the birthing of new life, and that’s where we’re collectively at: a death-rebirth moment that’s being driven not just by our pain and wounding, but more importantly by our love and best presence.
So breathe. Love. Listen. Offer up your best presence and support to yourself and others. Start simple, small and close to home. Trust that you’ll find your place, purpose, and kin that walk your same path. The time of change is now. And this is how we can heal and transform ourselves and world together.
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There are three characters in this dream. The first one is me. I see myself in an empty, white space. A document appears before me that is “the Truth.” This Truth is immensely powerful; it rules everything in my life, both my inner world and relationship with myself, and my interface with others and my outer environment.
The second character is the Editor. I can’t see this character, but they make changes to the Truth document. In bright yellow, the Editor highlights the distortions and lies that have been inserted into the Truth document. There’s only one Truth; it can’t be changed or replaced. But it can be messed with
In their actions, the Editor makes visible the third character: a shadow force I will name the Oppressor. The Oppressor wants to control and manipulate my existence. They can only do this by slipping lies and distortions into the Truth that directs my life.Dream Teaching
I’ve long understood the message in this dream. There’s no escaping the fact that our human lives are ruled by what we hold as true and real: the Truth document in the dream. This Truth holds our contract of how to live our life. It can limit or expand us, imprison or set us free. And the choice is ours.
But we’ve forgotten that we’re the masters of our own Truth, and that we ultimately choose what to believe in, and hold as real and true.
Whoever controls our Truth, controls us. Oppressors throughout history have understood this, and used their many powers to impose their version of the truth to control society and the lives of others. Nowadays we’re bombarded with constant outer noise, coming at us from the media, school, work, social groups, our family and the people who share our lives. And we distort our own Truth to help us cope with our painful, wounding life experiences.
This dream cuts to the chase of what it looks like to claim your Truth and your freedom to live on your own terms. Wake up. Make an ally of the Editor and their yellow highlighter. Pay close attention to the truths and beliefs that direct your life. Which feel good and true to you? Which serve your best interests and most beautiful human instincts? Which arise from love and make you feel cherished and empowered? And which do not.
Whatever feels untrue, unloving and disempowering to you, banish it from your Truth, and take away its power to control you. You get to choose the Truth you live by. This power belongs to you, and always has. Claim it. Revel in it. Be ruthless in your pursuit of Truth. This is the way you set yourself free, and live from your best, most beautiful Self outward.Lesson in Pagan Dreaming
Dreams arise from the realm of Truth. When we slip into sleep, we enter a different reality, deep, ancient, wide, wild, that doesn’t care about our modern human world and concerns. It isn’t touched by the lies and distortions that mess up our waking understanding of Truth.
Sometimes this dream reality offers up a precious revelation, like this dream, that simply, powerfully reveals what it means to be human, and gifts us with a lesson to guide our deepest healing and transformation.
The empowered response to a dream like this is to simply say yes to its invitation and challenge, even if you don’t understand how to go about making these personal changes. Don’t worry, with your yes, your dreams will continue to guide and deepen your spiritual work of claiming your Truth. Because this type of dream is not only a revelation, but also a promise of more gifts and lessons to come.
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I’m in my house: a special, personal space, and my inner sanctum where I choose the rules of engagement. Messages come to me in this house, delivered by a loud, disembodied voice, and later accompanied by bombs, like the kind dropped from a World War II plane.
I understand that these messages are from the Mysteries that are directing and influencing my spiritual journey. They’re pushing me, sending bombs my way in the form of life challenges, waiting for me to answer them. I refuse to answer, and with every refusal, I enter deeper and deeper into my inner house, to rooms that are secret and special to me.
But still the messages and bombs come. The Mysteries can penetrate this secret, private space within me. And the bombs are getting bigger as I go deeper inward.
After a huge bomb lands on the floor in front of me, I wake up with a jolt and my initial reaction is fear and frustration. Aren’t I listening and responding to the Mysteries constantly? I work my dreams. I pay attention to what’s happening in my life always. I’m willing to heal, change, grow in whatever ways are necessary. Deep spiritual work is as natural and necessary to me as breathing. Am I missing something? And do I really need to just keep getting bombs to do my personal work? Bigger and bigger bombs… egads!
Then it comes to me — I’m not afraid in the dream at all. I’m calm, fully present, even slightly amused. The messages and bombs show up. I observe them, curious, engaged, but choose not to answer the Mysteries’ questions. Then I go to the next level, deeper inside of me, and do the same thing over again with the next message and bomb.Dream Teaching
The message of this dream is pretty direct: big change is here, and that change is driven by challenges that work the deepest layers of the psyche. Bombs are being dropped in my inner sanctum, going deeper and deeper, and getting bigger and bigger. Profound, core healing and transformation are required.
Bono from U2 is my lover. He brings me on stage at a concert, and delights in my beauty which reaches outward from my luminescent center and shines through my skin. He kisses me, deeply, passionately, activating his own inner, shining beauty. Then he performs a song called: Being With My Soul’s Deepest Love. I lay my hands on his back and send our joined energies out into the audience. As the last note slips into silence, Bono shuts off all of the lights, blanketing the stadium in an inky backdrop for the dazzling brilliance of the combined shining of each and every member of the audience.
This is a dream I had many years ago that I loved so much, it was the basis of my first Path of She blog post. It’s teaching is simple: you are infinitely beautiful and infinitely worthy, beyond your wildest imagination.
I return to this dream teaching over and over again in my writing, and my personal journey of soul. The dream came back to me recently in my efforts to come to grips with the deluge of fear and negativity that has become the norm of the daily news cycle. I ask myself constantly: how can I and others become a positive force in the face of the destructive and reprehensible aspects of our human nature that seem to dominant our shared society.
And I return always to the same themes of our innate beauty, love and goodness as powers that can change the world for the better.
In this dream, the shining beauty of one person is infectious. I light up Bono, and Bono lights up the whole stadium. This isn’t because we are the stars of this show, shining brighter than everyone else, but because we offer an invitation, by shining our beauty outward, that draws forth the shining beauty of everyone else.