Archive for the ‘dreams’ tag
This little guy sat still long enough for me to go and get my camera and get this photo taken. To tell the truth, when I got back outside his wings were folded and I had to wait a while before he opened them up again for this photo.
There is no doubt that I was lucky that the butterfly had remained on the tree during the time it took to get these two photos two days ago. I didn’t know if I should keep the first photo as it is a bit blurry and doesn’t have the aesthetic quality of the photo with its wings opened to receive the warmth of the sun’s rays; but now, I am glad that I did. The two photos seemed to illustrate my dream from early this morning. I guess I should explain.
My dream this morning was about dreaming. In my dream about dreaming, I was concerned about the recording of the dream and found myself recording dreams in two separate journals. The second journal contained dream fragments, those bits of dreams that indicate that there was more but defy all conscious attempts to capture the fullness of the dreams. The first journal was where the dream then got recorded in all of its fullness, a drama in full colour even though the drama has no linear structure, a fullness that almost has all the parts existing at the same time in which the ego dream-self navigates without worrying about obeying the laws of physics or rationality. Two journals; two versions of the same dreams – two photos that has one hinting at way is hidden while the second photo holds nothing back.
I know that I am always stuck with the fragments which sometimes are actually quite large running into several hundred words, but usually containing less than a hundred words. The fragments do help me in terms of “associations” with my personal past and often with incidents of the very recent past. Yet, these associations are not enough if I am to fully understand the dream. Looking for more, I turned to C.G. Jung in order to find a bit of guidance.
“Dreams, then, convey to us in figurative language – that is, in sensuous, concrete imagery – thoughts, judgments, views, directives, tendencies, which were unconscious either because of repression or through mere lack of realization. Precisely because they are contents of the unconscious, and the dream is a derivative of unconscious processes, it contains a reflection of the unconscious contents.” (Jung, CW 8, par 477)
Unconscious contents, repressed contents being “reflected” – there, I knew that there was something to even this fragment. It doesn’t take more than a fragment to point to what the fragment is a reflection of, the fuller story. Jung spoke of how dreams pointed to motifs, to themes that are often represented in myths and fairy tales, stories of the collective unconscious which is embedded within our personal unconscious. Finding the theme allows us to hear what the dream is attempting to communicate to us. Now, all I have to do is to mull upon the question of what is it that I am trying to disguise about myself, saying as little as possible in terms of self-disclosure. Of course, the clues are in what is actually disclosed, in the fragment.
When I fall asleep, darkness is welcome rather than being something fearful. It is as though the night creates a nest of safety, a cocoon of protection. My mind becomes silent, even more silent than the state of mindfulness that I am able to achieve at moments during meditation. And in my hours of sleep I descend into a state of healing nothingness, a non-threatening blankness. Yet, coming from out of the darkness, there emerges images, sounds and other indications that the darkness is a full place rather than an empty place. And I get to be both a spectator and a participant in that alternate reality that comes unbidden during the hours of sleep. This alternate world is a real world as far as my “mind” is concerned during my time spent in that world. But, it is a world that I enter into as though through a different lens, where I see differently and even act differently.
“. . . dreams are not entirely cut off from the continuity of consciousness, for in almost every dream certain details can be found which have their origin in the impressions, thoughts, and moods of the preceding day or days. To that extent a certain continuity does exist, though at first sight it points backwards. But anyone sufficiently interested in the dream problem cannot have failed to observe that dreams also have a continuity forwards – if such an expression be permitted – since dreams occasionally exert a remarkable influence on the conscious mental life even of persons who cannot be considered superstitious or particularly abnormal.” (Jung, CW vol. VIII, par 444)
The idea of consciousness is crucial here. Consciousness is based on thought, on one’s mental activity. We can’t see a thought, measure a thought, use any of our physical senses to prove the existence of a thought. Yet, we all accept the “reality” of a thought. There are some physical indicators that suggest the presence of thought, the way a person looks when thinking and when not thinking, a measurement of electrical activity in the brain are just tow obvious ways of being aware of the presence of thought in others. In our own heads, we have yet more evidence, both physical and subjective. Consciousness is based on this “thinking awareness.” Body presence is not enough to denote consciousness. We all know the expression “the lights are on but nobody’s home,” an expression that indicates that one can move through life instinctively, unconsciously.
Dreams have the same nature of existence as does thought. They are just as observable to an outsider indicating that there is “something” there. Our bias against a dream as a meaningful phenomenon, is based on the fact that we can’t seem to “control” these dreams. If we are honest, we have to admit that we often have great difficulty controlling our thoughts as well. Any beginner in meditative practice quickly learns how “thinking” seems to have its own agenda and will. It takes a lot of self-training to “tame” thinking processes in meditation. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is a real connection between thinking and dreaming in terms of consciousness.
I took this photo in Calgary, not because of any historical significance though there is a lot of historical significance for the Canadian prairies, but because it made me think of a fantasy world filled with hobbits, elves, trolls and other magical beings created by Tolkien. When I taught the book, The Hobbit, many years ago to grade ten English students, I found that talking about the story in terms of its dream-like quality allowed the reluctant students to begin to make some connection to the story. Of course, the story was too linear for being a dream story, but the conceptualization of darkness and light as well as characters that defied our notions of intelligent life was definitely the stuff of dreams.
Dream work is a vital part of my process here in Calgary. I have a fairly deep history with dreams and dream work, the first formal venturing into dream work happening about twenty-five years ago at the University of Saskatchewan. This initial training with dream work was focused on a Gestalt approach and was based on working within a group, more of a psycho-dynamic approach rather than a psychoanalytical approach. Of course I had worked with my own dreams much longer than this, not for a psychoanalytic reason, but simply because the dreams had imposed themselves upon me and gave me no peace until I addressed them.
Today, recording my dreams has become an automatic response. Recording the dream allows me to re-enter the dream later, even feel the presence and the weight of the dream while still being able to objectively observe the feeling tones as well as the content and flow of the dream. I want to bring some of G.G. Jung’s words here as he talked about dreams so that perhaps you will get a better sense of what it is about dreams that is vital for the process of getting to better know oneself.
“Dreams have a psychic structure which is unlike that of other contents of consciousness because, so far as we can judge from their form and meaning, they do not show the continuity of development typical of conscious contents. They do not appear, as a rule, to be integral components of our conscious psychic life, but seem rather to be extraneous, apparently accidental occurrences. The reason for this exceptional position of dreams lies in their particular mode of origin: they do not arise, like other conscious contents, from any clearly discernible, logical and emotional continuity of experience, but are remnants of a peculiar psychic activity taking place during sleep. Their mode of origin is sufficient in itself to isolate dreams from the other contents of consciousness, and this still further increased by the content of the dreams themselves, which contrasts strikingly with our conscious thinking.” (Jung, Collected Works – Volume 8, par. 443)
Necessarily one has to understand that consciousness is about becoming aware of, that something becomes “known” in some way. Being aware of something does not mean that one understands that something or that one is correct in what one understands about it. For example, I can be aware of a person’s existence without in the least having any knowledge of who that person is or anything about the character of that person. Just because I don’t know anything more than the fact that I “saw” this person does not mean that person is a figment of my imagination. I am aware of his or her existence because one or more of my senses tell me this. I accept this as proof enough. But of course, this is all in my mind and we do learn as we move through life that our mind isn’t always the most reliable of ways of knowing something. Our minds do play tricks on us. That said, our mind tells us and we become aware. So it is with dreams, our minds tell us and so we become aware of something else which emerges out of the darkness and into the light of awareness. It then is up to us to do something with what has emerged into our consciousness.
The song I used in one of my first lessons with each new set of students while teaching at the university in ChangZhou, was by Garth Brooks, The River. Using the song as a major part of a motivational set, the students were then able to open up more easily and speak of their own dreams and how they changed over their brief lives of childhood and youth. Dreams constantly change as life somehow twists and turns and sometimes doubles back on itself. But that said, there are some dreams that shape-shift to fit the constantly changing terrain of one’s life. The core of the dream remains, only the outer world expression of the dream changes.
But this post is looking at a different simile, the one in which life is compared with the river. Of course, as is the usual manner in which I approach almost anything I write here, this is not intended to be some sort of universal truth, but simply how I see it at this point and time in my life. And, just because I understand it this way at this moment, I can only speak from that position. Life is like a river. The image I chose for today’s post inspired that thought. This is a section of the Battle River which flows through two quarter sections that my eldest daughter and her husband own in east-central Alberta. I have seen this river at different levels depending on the season and the environmental conditions that exist between the source of the river and this particular point along the rivers journey.
At times, the river’s flow is restricted and slow as though there was not enough energy to free up water for the flow. Something at the source has remained frozen for two long, or there was not enough winter snow to feed the river’s flow. I see that same thing happening in my life at times where my energy levels are lower and I move and think more slowly as a result. Other times, the river overflows its banks and floods the land making wholesale changes which often seem to appear to be more about damaging and destroying. But, when the river recedes back to its place between banks that have changed somewhat because of the flooding, new life appears on the flooded land. The flooding has enriched the land. And like the physical river, life has a way of overwhelming us with “too much-ness.” Psychologically the unconscious floods us through an overabundance of dreams, or through activated complexes due to our interpersonal relationships becoming heated in any number of ways. In the end, when the dreams recede and our heads have a time to rest, we find that we have changed in some ways, hopefully we have become more conscious and thus better able to be in relationship with ourselves and with others.
But that said, there are no guarantees about anything. The changes could result in improved relationships, lost relationship and perhaps new relationships. The only thing to be certain of is that everything changes. Attempting to hold on to what was is nothing but a neurotic response for what was no longer exists, what was has been transformed by the flow of life.
I do love black and white photos, or should I say, photos that show a richness of gray. My dreams are often about shapes, forms, textures and a lack of colour. The lack of colour isn’t something that gives a problem in terms of the stories for one focus on the action, the drama, the faces, the relationships rather than getting caught up in colours. When colour does present itself, then colour has its own meaning.
This photo was taken while on the road travelling from point A to point B, a journey of more than a few hours. I took quite a few photos of the old building from a number of locations and perspectives, following intuition more than making it a “purposeful” activity. Often in such locations I like to enter the building and take interior photos ore photos looking out from the decay and wreckage of an abandoned building. But this time, I stayed outside deciding to look at the whole, to take peeks into the shadows or to look through one window and a window opposite to see the outer world to be seen on the opposite side of the house.
I was not pulled to be in the old story, to wander within the decay and wreckage of the past stories of this old house. It was enough for me to see the house and to honour it without disturbing it too much. I do this with my dream work from time to time. Sometimes I write them down, read what has been remembered and then close my eyes for a moment of silence before leaving the dream alone.
I don’t have a logical reason by which I choose which dreams to go into, either in terms of analysis (decoding the dream) or dialogue (engaging the characters within a dream) or through art (attempting to capture the feel and texture of a dream). I have been noticing that in presenting dreams during analytic sessions, my analyst responds in a similar manner. Some dreams are simply given a nod of recognition, others become the subject of some art form, and others become the centre of attention for discussion.
If there are rules for dream work, it could possibly be said that the only real rule is to honour the dream, to honour the response of the dreamer to the dream, and to trust to intuition in guiding the process.
I am bringing another photo from Jamestown and the reservoir. Hidden by the water is a road and a bridge that takes one to the island which is in the background. The water is more than six feet over the road surface of the bridge making it inadvisable to risk crossing with a vehicle. However, there are other ways to get to the island such as swimming across the body of water, a feat performed by two of my grandchildren.
If I follow my usual pattern of shifting away from the objective reality to one that is psychological then I enter into a different world, a different reality – yet I have to remember that the objective physical reality is not isolated from the psychological reality. And here I want to look at the image as if it were taken from a dream.
I have often found myself in impassable situations in dreams, at least what I would have thought should have been impassable. Swamplands, mountain ranges without passes, endless stretches of water have been some of the scenes in these dreams.
In the swamplands I somehow found footing where nothing was visible from the surface. In the dreams, the dream form of my ego seemed to know where to step while knowing that to do otherwise would mean failure. When confronted with mountains through which no trail could be found, I flew. Yet strangely, I flew through the mountains to avoid the peaks. And with water, I swam under the surface never worrying about drowning at all. It was as if this was a natural place to be.
And always, I swim, fly and walk unclothed. With all these intimate engagements with the unconscious, I bring only myself, no masks, no costumes, no mirrors to deflect. With the right intention, the right spirit, the road is never closed.
I took this photo in Can Tho, Vietnam, a picture of the night market busy with people. Night time is often busier that daytime activity in the market areas. It’s as if with the fall of darkness, there is a sense of freedom to laugh, to hustle, to enjoy an evening of drink, food, friendships and even sex. The primal urges come alive in the darkness. It’s a heady experience walking among the others who are bargaining, or otherwise engaged in the market place area. But of course, the photo really isn’t about a night market in Vietnam.
Night is also symbolic of the unconscious in full motion, with a cast of archetypes, complexes, feeling tones and shadows. Dreams are often taken as the expression of this activity of the night, this activity of darkness. But, it isn’t only a dreamscape; it is also an inner world landscape that exists when one is in the light of day. It is found in those pensive moments when one has lost connection with the outer world, a place many of those people who deny anything that is not about the outer world would call “lala-land;” a place where imagination both of light and dark find an expression. This is a place where I am often to be found during some of my periods of silence.
There isn’t much patience or tolerance by others for those who find that they wander at times through lala-land. It isn’t as though there is a lot of choice when lala-land intrudes on one’s psyche. Yet, with a lot of effort over time, one can recognize the signals that indicate lala-land is just around the next thought and thus allow one to engage in diversionary tactics and avoid disappearing into this inner space. One learns tactics to stay “present” and “accountable” to others who matter. For in the end, it is about the others, not about the self.
Lala-land is a rich place that offers more than it takes in terms of presence and time with the outer world. But typically what is offered has little value to the others who are invested fully in body and in presence, a world where the opinions of others matter more than one’s own opinion. In fact, one’s opinion is formulated on the collective opinion just as much as many follow fashions regardless of the practicality or need for fashion.
Think of how one is “Self” responsible, or “self” responsible and with that responsibility comes a requirement for authenticity, being true to one’s self in order to honour that which is at the root of self, that which can be called god, or SELF, the central and all encompassing dynamic. If we call god as all that is and all that isn’t, then we understand that everything and everyone is part of the one. As an individual, I am me or “self,” an unit of one. Yet, I am a part of a larger one-ness which most call god, a wholeness that is also called the ONE or the SELF. With the inner as well as the outer world contained in this unity of everything, there can’t be a devaluation of any one part of the whole. The inner world is as valid as the outer world. So, in daring to get caught up in lala-land, I find that I am daring to connect with a deeper aspect of self, one that hints at the infinite behind the self.
Another magnolia flower that I caught with my camera on April 1st shows a more feminine aspect. In a recent post I featured a magnolia blossom before it had opened or “flowered,” an image that evoked a sense of the masculine. As one of my readers noted in response to that post, the magnolia has both a masculine and feminine aspect. It is amazing to me how quickly the shift from a faint bud on a tree to petals fading, aging and falling off the same tree, occurs. In a way, it is a strong statement about how transitory we are in the big picture. Each of us, in turn, flowers only to fade. This isn’t something that should give rise to despair, but rather give us reason to jump fully into life with the opportunity and time given to us.
So, what is the fullness of life for any of us, for all of us? Well, that is not so easily defined as each of us has a unique journey. What makes the definition harder is the possibility that who we are, the unique self is not fully contained in a biological body. There appears to be too much evidence that we are more than the sum of our physical aspects. The word soul adds a dimension that suggests that the body is a host, an opportunity for “SELF” to be made manifest. Soul appears to be something that is not bound in the constraints of time, but timeless in the sense that there is no beginning or end to its being.
In looking at the magnolia tree and the rest of nature, watching the birth and rebirth repeated endlessly on one tree, and then seeing a new tree replacing an old tree as a statement that only the container has changed and not the essence, I get a powerful affirmation of my own being. In watching the magnolia blossom, I get a message that I too can risk putting my full self out there chasing dreams. Fear of aging and death recede as the essence of who I am does not die. To refuse the chasing of dreams leads me into dark holes that swallow me up, nightmares of darkness.
Though I am passed the mid-point of my life, I am vitalized and reveling in the sunshine and more tolerant of the gloomy cloudy days that in turn give me food for the next sunny day. I have dared to follow my bliss and feel fully alive as a result. Dare to follow your dreams rather than let them fester so that they become your nightmares.
On the way to the main university campus (I teach on a second campus) I came across this little guy sitting on a branch. I had quite a chase before finally getting a decent photo. He seemed to “know” when the camera was pointed at him, even though I was using a telephoto lens which meant I didn’t get very close at all. He definitely was skittish about having his photo taken. Shortly after taking his photo, I went to the FAO leader’s office where I signed a contract for another year of teaching at the university. This will be the fourth such contract. Interesting as this was not what my intentions were when I began the side journey into teaching in China. I had originally thought of a one-year contract with the option of moving on to other countries. Now, it is four years in one school in one city in one country.
Having a base in China, I definitely been more comfortable with my travels to other places in China as well as other countries in Asia. The stability of place allows me a sense of a safety net. I feel free to wander knowing that I have a place not-too-distant in which to return for revitalization. What is most surprising is the fact that I found this place of safety far from my foundational home in Canada. It is as though I went on a journey of discovery and found a distant port to act as a halfway house for my self.
This is a good analogy of what I experienced as I dared to journey within, leaving the known world for the shadowy world within. Though I didn’t really want to take the journey, preferring instead to remain in the stuck patterns of familiarity, my sanity forced me to take the risk. In the process of discovering new places within, I was able to build rest stops from which I could make smaller round trips into the unknown. Now, the inner world is not so terrifying. I know that I have carved a path back to ego that lets me know that I am remaining somewhat sane as I change.
My wings take me just as swiftly to a safe place, not much different than this little fellow.
I took this photo in Hong Mei Gong Yuan, or Red Plum Park in ChangZhou, two days ago. Of course, it didn’t actually look like this, so cold almost lifeless. As I was cropping and trying to have the lanterns stand out with a bit of toggling of various editing options this version of reality appeared. As I played with the editing features, I realised that what was appearing before my eyes was also reality through a different lens, but reality none-the-less. Readers here might remember that I have commented about this idea of what is seen, in my August 24, 2010 post which talked about the lens through which we see the world. This post is about dreaming, a different world or reality.
I have been dreaming a lot recently. The trip to IndoChina in January and early February seems to have awakened something within that continues to give voice as well as images to the unconscious. The outer world seems to be mimicking the inner world as small voices are protesting their enforced silence. Even in Canada, the effort going into “silencing” has taken on an autocratic tone as if to deny the very existence of another way of knowing, another point of view.
Leaders are heroes to someone – and that part is sometimes hard to understand, especially when some of these leaders distort, lie, and manufacture realities that even a bit of consciousness would immediately recognise as false. How does the world ever allow a Hitler, a Gadhafi, a bin Laden, a Bush or minor league leaders such as Harper to have leadership? Fear is the first reason. These men all prey on the fears of the unwashed, the fear of the others who are the carriers of both personal and collective shadow. Here, I want to add Jung’s words to my post in hopes that you will understand what I am thinking/feeling at this time:
“Apart from the moral difficulty there is another danger which is not inconsiderable and may lead to complications, particularly with individuals who are pathologically inclined. This is the fact that the contents of the personal unconscious (i.e. the shadow) are indistinguishably merged with the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious and drag the latter with them when the shadow is brought into consciousness. This may exert an uncanny influence on the conscious mind; for activated archetypes have a disagreeable effect even – or should I say, particularly – on the most cold-blooded rationalist.” (Jung, CW 12, par. 38)
As I look at what is occurring around the world, where many ordinary people have somehow fallen out of the webs woven to keep them silent to the point of of refusing to hear their own conscience, their own souls, I see my own culpability. I see that I have also been a leader acting out of shadow – the leader of a classroom, the leader of a sports team, the leader of a family, the leader of a school – I see that rather than leading, I was being lead and that I believed I was a hero. Yes, there is a question of degree, but when one goes into the mind of each of those we now label as infamous, each of these men see themselves as heroes. At what point does one “wake up” from the delusions and reclaim “self” from the shadow?
This is what this image today is asking me. When will I wake up and acknowledge the shadow that is being denied? Of course, I don’t consciously know what I am denying, but at least I now have an idea that something is being blocked, something is feeling banished to an inner Dachau. Yes, this photo evokes the same response as when I watched Schindler’s List. Will I deny and watch the small signs of life be silenced? I hope not. It’s time for me to listen to the inner voice of self. It’s time for all of us to listen to the inner voice within each of us that is self and wake up and leave the power of the collective shadow, the belief in a leader that will save us, that will be our hero.