The Indoor-Outdoor Place, Part Two

copper-pots-001Part Two: The Rest of the Story

The final part of this dream, which I deliberately didn’t include in the first post, adds an interesting layer of meaning:

Then I turn toward the rest of the house and there are piles of odds and ends, including lots of old and beat-up copper cooking pots that are flimsy and not usable, but could be attractive as part of the décor. I realize that I’m going to want to get rid of them, though, because there’s just too much junk here. The feeling in this dream is of moving into a new area and renovating it or updating it, though I’m somewhat tentative about it.

Cooking pots and kitchen images always make me think of alchemy—the process of heating the elements in order to purify them. Copper, in alchemical terms, is often associated with Venus and the feminine, and in the waking world is easily deformed, bent, and destroyed. These old, battered cooking pots—here likely symbolizing the internalized aspects of womanhood and the Feminine,  are “not usable,” but only decorative at this point. The dream suggests that I may need to get rid of those concepts and understandings and replace them with something more serviceable as I renovate this area of my life.

In fact, that’s what’s happening now in my life, as I finally begin to deal with my internalized mother (who is not capable of providing the support and nurturance that I need) and replace those internal images.

At the time of this dream, more than ten years ago, I had no idea of any of this. The information in this dream has become even more relevant than it was at the time it came to me, because it’s only now that I understand enough, and have become strong enough, to do the difficult work that’s required.

The Indoor-Outdoor Place, Part One

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Dream: I’m in a space that seems simultaneously an indoor room, perhaps a library in a house, and an outdoor garden area. As I walk down one side, there are flowers blooming very early, way out of season, and I worry that they’ll be nipped by the frost. They’re lovely and surprising, but I notice they have no fragrance. Back the other way, toward the rest of the house, there are shelves where the previous owner has kept irises, bulb and all, growing in flasks of water. These irises are also blooming, but pale and faded because they haven’t gotten sunlight. I move them off the lower shelves where they’ve been and put them in the “windows” of the garden where they’ll get more light, and think about adding some fertilizer to their water. The feeling in this dream is of moving into a new area and renovating it or updating it, though I’m somewhat tentative about it.

This dream occurred at a time when I was just beginning the real work of my dissertation.

I remember it well: the sense of surprise that the space was both indoors and outdoors at the same time; the beauty of the flowers, blooming in winter; the concern about them being killed by frost; the odd fact that, beautiful though they were, they had no fragrance at all. And those irises! In vases of water?

I remember being puzzled by the dream, trying to make sense of it, trying very hard to give it a positive spin: renovating something, making it new again; protecting precious blooming things; correcting “mistakes” from previous generations. But it’s only recently, fifteen or so years later, that the real meaning of the dream has emerged for me, and I’ve understood why I could never feel completely positive about it.

My interpretation at the time was this: I know the dangers that are involved here. By carefully protecting these lovely flowers, I can keep them safe, give them light and fertilizer, and renovate the “room.” Yes! A very positive dream! Right?

Carl Jung was a keen observer of the natural world. When we come across images from nature in our dreams, it’s always a good idea to look at them from a naturalist’s perspective as we search for their meaning. In this little dream, what do we notice?

These flowers are blooming out of season, “very early,” in a space that is not protected from winter’s chill. They are in danger of being killed by frost because it’s not yet time for them to bloom. The irises are struggling to grow in vases of water on shelves that receive insufficient light. If you’ve ever grown irises, you’ll know two important things about them: First, they require plenty of sunlight to thrive. Without it, they have a hard time. And second, they can’t tolerate wet feet. The irises in the dream are doomed.

What do these images tell us about the “renovation” that’s being attempted? The time is wrong, and the conditions are wrong! It’s highly unlikely, says Psyche, that the work will be successfully accomplished at this moment. Later, perhaps, and with different conditions. No matter how much I want the psychic changes to occur, “now” is not the time.

And in fact, “now” was not the time for the psychic renovation that I was undertaking. It would be four long, agonizing years before I finished the dissertation—before I managed to renovate my psychic structure sufficiently that I was able to provide a suitable “space” for the material to survive. And it’s only now, another nine years later, that the dissertation is beginning to transform itself into a book.

Interpreting the dream in that way at the time, had I been able to understand it correctly, might have saved me a lot of heartache along the way. I might have been more compassionate with myself. But maybe it’s better that it remained a mystery for so long, and only now gives up its meaning, when I can better understand the reasons for the long, drawn-out process. I’m now much better able to provide the structure and conditions for those flowers to thrive!

“In Defense of the Un-Swallowable”

20160930_101255This story begins with a dream:

The dream came with a title, as I awakened: “In Defense of the Un-Swallowable.” There’s this thing, this object, about the size of a goose egg. It’s pink and hard and lumpy, with a few odd black and gold specks on its surface. It’s “medicinal” and I have to swallow it somehow, so I put it into a glass of water. Then it softens and I put it in my mouth and kind of chew it up and swallow it. It’s not nearly as gross as I thought it would be, and goes down very easily.

Uh oh, I thought when I awoke. Another transitional object! I’ve had some experience with those! Something like RED, maybe? Or hopefully not that dramatic and shocking…this object is pink and, in the end, not that “hard to swallow.” But still….

But I’m endlessly curious about such things, notwithstanding the potential stress and difficulty of working on yet another aspect of my ego, so I decided to recreate the “un-swallowable object” in the waking world, as nearly as possible. Embodying it would bring it into my consciousness and help it do its job, whatever that was.

The waking-world object has turned out very close in appearance to the dream-object—I am pretty pleased. Right size, right shape, dents and bits of “dirt” in the right places. It feels good in my hand, just as I remember it.

More Dreams

During the week, while I patiently added coat after coat of acrylic and tissue paper, I reviewed the other dreams that have appeared in the past month, looking for patterns that will add information. The one that feels most closely allied with this object and the transition it embodies is this one:

This dream feels more like a story, or a movie—I don’t seem to be part of it; it’s like I’m watching it unfold. It takes place in “historic” time—maybe the 19th century. There’s a serious and uptight young man who’s following an odd character around. The character’s name is Aries, and he has two female companions, a Miss Lam(b) and another woman whom I never see. He’s mysterious and very sexually active. The young man has an important message for Aries, and he goes all over town trying to find the trio at their usual hangouts, but they’re not there. Finally he goes to the house of a friend where the three are staying. It’s the middle of the night, but he pounds on the front door of this old brownstone house, and he calls out to them. “Aries! Miss Lam(b)!” and we can hear them inside, and apparently they are coming to the door when I wake up.

Immediately upon waking, I knew that Aries is a psychopomp (“guide of souls”), a figure who can lead me “between the worlds” and farther along my soul’s path. I’ll be working with him in various ways for some time to come, I expect.

Several other dreams occurred within a few days of these two. Many of them were very encouraging and supportive, which is rather unusual for me.

In several dreams, I come to the defense of creatures who are being mistreated or neglected. My own cat is injured (on the left side of his face, of course; right where my own “injury” is located) but ignored by the vet to whom I’ve brought him; a group of cows are being confined under water (magically able to breathe) and are being “exercised” in a cruel way by handlers that they trust before they’re sent to slaughter; a small, abandoned and injured dog is in need of rescue; a cat’s owner brings it to me, telling me that it’s died and that I should bury it, but in fact the owner has been actively starving it to death. The dominant emotion in these dreams is anger and indignation.

In other dreams, animals that I’m caring for and am worried about are seen to be doing very well indeed, due to my loving efforts. I woke from these with a feeling of pleased wonder.

There have been a dozen or more with these themes—some have been nightmares, some have been full of joy and excitement when I realize, in the dream, that I can do something to help. In several, there are characters “in authority” who thank me for my efforts.

And then there are a few dreams where I stand up for myself, firmly and without anger. Finally, this one:

As I’m waking up, I hear a foreign man’s voice say to someone, “What is that name that you are calling me? Why are you calling me that name? That is not my name!” He is disturbed about it and angry, but not yelling. How odd!

There’s so much work still to do on these—I’ve only begun to unpack this bunch! In active imagination the other day, Aries himself showed up on the porch of my imaginal cabin, dressed not in the 19th-century garb of the dream, but as a gunslinger—cowboy hat and boots with spurs, flannel shirt over his paunchy middle, and a gunbelt. He himself wasn’t—isn’t—the least bit threatening, but I asked him what the meaning of his costume was. “Stereotype,” he said, and went on chewing his toothpick. Hmmm….

And in Waking Life…

Each of these dreams deserves an entire post in itself, and I will write more here about some of them. But for now, I want to talk about what’s been happening in waking life the last week, and sum up what I think the message is for me just now.

As I write this, it’s the last day of September, 2016. We’re a little more than a month away from the presidential election, in the heat of what is by far the strangest and most disturbing campaign I’ve ever experienced. It seems like the Universe has given us two candidates whose archetypal significance is writ not just large but in flashing neon. You can’t miss the meaning.

Normally, I avoid election coverage like the plague, and I never, ever post political material either here or on social media. But yesterday I saw a post that has made me change my rule.

It’s not about the actual political positions of the candidates—Democrat or Republican, to me, isn’t the point here. The image that I find so very disturbing is that of a a woman candidate—highly qualified, with more experience than most men who have run for the office and won—opposed by a man who is a blatant, in-your-face misogynist and bully. Women throughout social media are responding to this man’s tactics with fear and recognition—and posting about their responses. And so am I.

Speaking up and speaking out. It needs to be done, by me, too, despite my six decades of silence. Not so hard a pill to swallow, after all!

What Does It Mean?

How does that relate to the dreams? I’ve just started working with all of this, but I think I can see the gist of it.

I believe that Aries the psychopomp is helping me bring out my own inner Masculine, the part of my psyche that’s been shut out of my waking consciousness since childhood. I’m being encouraged to speak up for myself and for others—to speak what I see, without silencing myself like I’ve almost always done. The lesson I’m learning is that despite what I’ve been told all my life, I’m worth the effort. I and other woman have been frightened into silence for too long now, and it’s time to speak out and claim our place.

It’s the logical next step for me. After all, my dissertation looked at the effects on the feminine psyche of millennia of patriarchal silencing. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, and I’ve finally learned it. Now it’s time to speak it, no matter how scary it is.

It’s not easy, but it feels very right. And interestingly, it really isn’t such a hard pill to swallow….

And more compassion….

2013-10-02_13-57-04_965Woke up the other morning from dreams that didn’t stay around long enough to remember. The only image that remained is this:

I am with someone, and we are watching a beautiful but sad young man. I touch his face gently but from a compassionate distance; he may not even be aware of me. The feeling was very loving.

When I actually woke up, I was really sad myself, for no obvious reason. Am I the beautiful young man in my dream? It would seem so…and my Higher Self and I are filled with compassion. Hmmm….

Blissful acceptance

20150506_195945Last night I had an odd but wonderful experience in the middle of the night: I woke up, concerned about the pain in my jaw. It was feeling “hot” and beginning to be spiky, though still not what I would call painful (I expect most people would, though). I lay still, hoping to be able to keep it quiet enough that it wouldn’t go full-blown. As I lay there drifting around, half-awake but aware of what was going on, this showed up:

I feel I’m in a big, finished basement—“my house,” in the dream. There’s a room that’s big enough to dance in, and I’m enjoying a waltz with a casual friend of mine who’s a very good lead. I love to waltz! In this dream, or whatever it was, I realize the joy is in the dance itself, and doesn’t depend so much the person whom I’m dancing with.

Then the odd part starts:

I find myself in a strange, peaceful state of being where I just watch things going on. I watch my emotions, watch or review the events in my life, and am filled with wonder at the way they happened. There are things that in waking life I might wish had happened differently, but in this state of being, there’s no regret associated with any of it. It’s mostly a state of observation, but I’m not “neutral.” This not the Witness—I feel plenty of emotion! But it’s wonderful! I love this life of mine—every bit of it!

For many years, I’ve consciously cultivated the Witness—that state of consciousness where one can observe, without judgement and without emotion, what’s going on. Being able to observe oneself and others without emotion or judgement is enormously helpful in getting through tough times. Though difficult to constellate at first, it gets easier with practice.

This state of awareness was definitely NOT the Witness. It seems related, in the sense that there was no judgement present. But there was strong emotion: an enormous sense of love and compassion and acceptance that’s like nothing I have experienced in my everyday life.

Strange as it felt, I was not asleep, though I was deeply relaxed and had my eyes closed. It was a real, waking state of consciousness, not a dream.

It felt very odd, but very good indeed! I can’t remember exactly what I thought about (though I do remember some things that in my waking life have been HUGE disappointments), but it was all observed with that same sense of loving acceptance. It was not “dispassionate” or emotionally removed in any way. I was there, awake and aware, and it was my life … but I was loving and accepting everything that had happened just as it was.

At one point, a more dreaming moment, I looked out the window and saw snow falling, and said, “Look, it’s snowing!” The joy and pleasure I felt in seeing that cool, wonderful image was immense.

After a while, I drifted off to sleep, with no thought or experience of pain the rest of the night. And when I woke, that blissful feeling was just a memory. There is no way I can conjure up that state of being! Maybe someday I’ll experience it again. I hope so—because it was wonderful!

Galahad and the Beanstalk

for galahad and the beanstalkMost of us have had dreams that were so intense and amazing that the images stay with us for years. These dreams, as well as waking images and experiences that share that same haunting quality, are often referred to as “numinous” in the Jungian sense. Numinous experiences are ineffable, spiritual, impossible to describe. They evoke a sense of awe, mystery, importance, and, often, fear.

I experienced a numinous dream this past summer:

When I dropped off to sleep this evening, the movie “Jane Eyre” was playing in the background—so it’s no surprise that the dreamscape is the English countryside. There’s a centuries-old barn, and my Galahad is stabled there. I am with him in his stall. I don’t see him, but he moves his shoulder nearer to me and I feel his breath on my face and hands as he breathes me in.

Then I’m outside. I look up and see a vine hanging down. It’s got delicate, dark green leaves and tiny purple flowers—very beautiful. It’s just hanging from the sky, and as I follow it up with my eyes, it becomes clearer, and I can see that it goes up forever. I wonder if it will fall if I pull on it, but it doesn’t. Then I wonder if I can climb it—so I try, and the vine easily and naturally hugs my foot and leg to help me. I start to climb up, knowing I will be able to climb as high as I would like! Then I remember sweet Galahad and his warm physicality, and I hop down off the vine.

Very strange—but lovely, warm., satisfying….

A few days later, I figured out why the dream felt so “familiar” to me—I remembered another hugely important dream that I more than a decade ago, at a time when I was casting about for the next step in my life journey:

I am coming out, it seems, from “underground,” somewhere I’ve been with friends, perhaps a restaurant. I walk out into the edge of the woods along a road. My attention is caught by the early morning sun slanting through and illuminating the mist in shimmering patches rising from the ground. I move closer, spellbound. Each tiny hair on each fuzzy leaf is so clear, the drops of mist so sharp—I can see it all, feel it all. I am awestruck and I realize that I am one of the few who can see such things, or see that way. I look up and find myself at the base of a mighty tree—tall, so tall I can’t see the top, and huge. It is split into two huge trunks; lichens and other strange plants have taken root here and there. I can see it all with such clarity, and can feel the bark beneath my fingers. I look up and up, becoming more breathless and awestruck with each second. It occurs to me that I could climb that tree—all I have to do is scamper up it like a squirrel! I can actually feel my tiny claws gripping the bark as I go up a few feet, but I am afraid. Awe and yearning well up in me and I can’t move, only look and cry out to the Being I call Grandmother for help: “What does this mean?” I wake slowly, reluctant to let the vision go.

These two dreams seem to mark stages in my understanding of my Soul’s path in this lifetime.

The “Tree of Life” dream is the most powerful and numinous that I have ever had. At the time, it helped me to begin to realize both the fear-filled paralysis I was suffering as I tried to figure out what to do with my life after a layoff from my career as a research botanist. It also brought to my attention the gifts I have been granted, as one who can move relatively freely between the imaginal and the waking worlds.

In the “Galahad and the Beanstalk” dream, the dream-I is curious about the beautiful celestial vine, and I begin to climb it without fear—I know that “I will be able to climb as far as I would like!” As in the first dream, though, I stop before going very far. But this time is very different: I stop not from fear but from love of my horse, and a deep knowledge that my path lies not in “heaven” (in my personal symbology, heaven represents the refined, spiritual, “mental” plane) but in the world, in connection with Nature and Horse. My path leads not upward toward Spirit and Samadhi, but downward and inward toward the deeper, embodied, feminine knowing of Soul.

In the months since this dream, I have become more certain of the message of the second dream, and of the rightness of the direction it suggests. My soul craves not the denial of or escape from my embodied state, but the full embrace of embodiment, of deep connection with the Earth and all her creatures.

This sense hints at a darker, moister, more “feminine” path; and yet it is not “passive and receptive,” as the Feminine is so often defined. But what might this mean? Exploration of the Feminine (in Jung’s sense) through interaction with my horses feels right to me: My interaction with them, and the community I’ve found since beginning my work with them, calls to the depths of my being. So even though I still can’t see more than a step or two ahead, I will trust and follow where my soul leads!

Cross-posted on The Alchemical Horse.