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 mother. What she needs from me and my siblings isn’t 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 Me Too and Black Lives Matter 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 mother.
This is raw and real for me. In the dream, I connect with the visceral, vital power of my love and compassion for my mother, and my desire to do my very best to listen and support her in this last part of her life.
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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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.
Right now human society needs all of us to be this invitation to others. To do this, we must fall in love with ourselves, embrace our star-bright beauty and shine it outward into a hungry and waiting world. When you shine, you invite others to shine, and they invite others in turn. In this way, we can light up the whole world.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need a stage or a voice like Bono’s. You can start with the simple and the everyday. Choose the things that give you joy. Give time and effort to the things you’re good at. Share these good things with others. Make gratitude your first response to whatever life brings your way. Shower others with kindness. Appreciate and receive the beauty of others.
When faced with the worst side of our humanity, offer up your best in response. Love to combat hate. Inclusion to resist discrimination. Peace to soothe conflict. Beauty as an offering to horror. Generosity as a remedy to greed. Compassion to embrace suffering. Dispel fear with hope, with laughter, with creativity, with love, with every beauty tool you can imagine and lay your hands on.
Most of all, believe in the best of yourself and our humanity. Believe that each us has a shining fragment of the Cosmos in our core that’s our special gift to share with the world. Believe that we can choose and live from the very best of our human nature. Believe that you matter, that you can make a difference in the small and big ways you live your life and engage your greater community. Believe that your shining is infectious and can send a ripple outward that will draw out the shining of others. Believe that when we shine together, we’re an unbeatable counterforce to the fear, destruction and negativity that plague our human society and Earth home. Believe these things and then act on them.
Every act you do, every choice you make, every thought and vibe that goes outward into the listening Universe can be your offering of beauty to this world and your invitation to others to shine by your side.Lesson in Pagan Dreaming
Dreams can change our life and this world. The Mysteries and our soul offer us powerful teachings through dream stories and images that can cut straight through our mental barriers, and plant seeds that continue to grow and blossom in us for years.
We feel the power of these dreams upon waking. We return to them again and again, or they show up years later, seemingly out of the blue, once more inspiring us with their perfect, powerful message.
In recent months, big dreams that I had many years ago are coming back to me. And I’m seeing how the seeds they planted long ago have directed and shaped my life’s journey. Some were a foreshadowing of this time of great turmoil and change. Each is a treasure — an affirmation and guiding force that show me that the Mysteries and our souls have a strong hand in our destiny and that their deep intention is to help us heal and grow into our very best, beautiful selves.
This is such a dream. I offer it as an invitation for you to join me, and so many others, in sharing our soul’s deepest love, our best, shining beauty, with a world that is hungry and waiting for our combined, dazzling brilliance.
Artwork by Jimmy Lawlor
I wake, still immersed in that liquid, open state between dreaming and waking, while last night’s dream replays in my mind. It’s a complicated dream about white candle magic and negative energy. One image stands out and demands my attention — a black vase with a single, long stem covered with small, hot pink flowers. I don’t recognize what kind of a flower it is, but I sense that it’s dangerous and really shouldn’t be in my house.
I don’t know why the flower is important, or how it fits with the rest of my dream, and that’s okay. My mind has learned to be quiet in the presence of mystery, knowing that if it can reign in its compulsion to order and understand things, great jewels of learning will come.
Later in the day, I set out on my afternoon walk. As I step off the trail and onto the road, a single foxglove, with its long stem of small, hot pink flowers is waiting for me. This is unquestionably the flower from my dream — a thing of both beauty and danger, with stunning bell-shaped flowers that entice humans and wild things alike, and with an extreme poison that can be transformed into the potent heart medicine, digitalis.
I stop in my tracks and smile. This is pagan dreaming at its finest and I see that the foxglove has shown up to teach me something important.
As a pagan dreamer, I call this a between-the-worlds moment where the edges have blurred between physical and dreaming realities. The foxglove has crossed over the energetic realm of the dreaming and taken form on the physical plane. How this happened doesn’t matter. It may have arrived by synchronicity or appeared out of thin air. Regardless, the mystery of dream reality is at work and has my full attention.
As a seasoned student of the mysteries, I do what I always do when a powerful teacher reaches out from the dreaming and shows up on my path: I open my journal book, take a few deep, grounding breaths, and write an open question on the top of my blank page, in this case: what is the gift of your appearance in my life? Then I empty my mind and let my foxglove teacher speak.
This is what the foxglove has to say:
“I’m a powerful, dangerous medicine that can strengthen your heart. Your dream is about the limitations of the idea so prevalent today that love and beauty heal all.
Beauty does heal. Love does heal. But only when you honor that the heart can differentiate healing from poison. There are negative forces in this world. Everything has a dual nature that can heal or harm. A strong heart has a love that recognizes shadow. This is what can heal the world.
Summer is a season of light and life, and a time to share your beauty and love with the world. Be a thing of beauty, but acknowledge shadow and toxicity. To walk the path of beauty and love, your strong heart must be big and wise enough to hold it all.
This is the gift and teaching of my presence in your dream.”
Lesson in Pagan Dreaming: Dream Etiquette
As I share this dream with you, it comes to me that the foxglove is a perfect teacher in dream etiquette.
Where I live, foxgloves grow wild. They’re tall, imposing beauties, reaching heights of over six feet. Given their potent medicinal properties, the wise don’t touch them or cut stems for flower arrangements. These are power plants that can either harm or heal, not pretty, whimsical flowers. Long associated with the faerie realm and magic, the foxglove demands respect, whether encountered in physical reality or the realm of dreaming.
Your dreams are like foxgloves: beautiful, powerful gifts from the wild, undomesticated places in your psyche and the vast mysteries of this world. Dreams aren’t meant to be trivialized and ignored. They’re not the whimsical, nonsensical creations of your sleeping mind. They’re full of powerful medicine that can mend your heart and soul, if you consciously engage them with respect.
Dreams are your teachers on your journey of healing and personal growth. When an honored teacher shows up in your dreams, dream etiquette calls you to become the respectful student: humble, empty, curious and grateful.
But you don’t have to give your power away to your dreams, nor surrender your ability to discern positive versus negative energies that may come to you in the dreamtime. Remember the foxglove’s teaching about the strong heart, and meet your dreamwork with a love that recognizes shadow and is big and wise enough to hold it all.
Photo Credit: Matthew Henry on Unsplash
Our primal, natural place in the great weaving of life on this planet is not dominion, but sacred communion and protection. Of all of the Earth’s life forms, we have been given the gift of creative expression to give voice to the beauty and wonders of this world.
This is what my deep dreaming tells me.
I wake up in the early hours of the morning, still half in my dreamscape. In my dream, I am writing about the country walk I had taken with my partner the night before.
I record the sensual minutia of the natural world: the slow track of a jet-black snail, with a thin band of shiny, silver slime marking its passage; the nuanced scents of the surrounding forest and farmland with hints of resin, flowers, and sun-warmed earth; the gun-smoke gray of the twilight sky juxtaposed against the rich chestnut of a horse’s coat; and a weighty silence that marks the fading of day into night.
As I slowly emerge from this dreaming, I bring with me a fierce, full-body love and awe that speak to my primal communion with the living landscape, and inspire the writing flowing from my heart onto the blank page.
I invite you into my dream world to experience this fierce, full-body truth for yourself.
Go for a walk or spend a quiet hour in a favorite natural setting close to your home. This can be a park, trail, or green space in an urban setting — anywhere you feel a strong heart connection to Nature.
Bring a journal or sketchbook with you, whichever is your preferred form of creative expression.
Anchor yourself in your body with a few deep, full breathes. Quiet your mind and be fully present to the landscape around you. Take in the sensual details of the wild world: the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of Nature. See what draws your attention and speaks to your wonder. Give this communion your complete attention.
Widen your awareness, open your heart and your body, and then write, draw, or record, in whatever way is free-flowing for you, the beauty before you.
Keep your mind and interpretations out of this. This moment is not about you, but about your capacity to storytell, in words or images, the beauty and wonders of this living, breathing Earth.
When this communion feels complete, put down your journal or sketchbook. Let go of words and images. Sink into your energetic connection to the natural world, your living body to its living body. Take in the sensations and emotions that arise in you, the raw love, joy, and awe that infuse your primal communion with the beauty and wonders of this world.
Breathe this connection into your body; imprint it in your memories; let it change you.
You are the storyteller and steward of Her beauty, the Earth, our home.
Photo Credit: Jared Erondu on Unsplash
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.