A dolmen is a Neolithic stone tomb, usually with two side stones and a capstone that spans the distance between the side stones. They were, in some cases at least, covered with soil, which has weathered away. They could be considered portals to the afterlife. As a dream symbol, they carry associations with death (transformation) and access to the Invisible Realm. As tombs, they symbolize, for me, the idea that something of myself is entombed, that is, buried in a way that feels permanent and unchanging. The stones evoke the appearance of permanence but also the suggestion that anything built by humans eventually gives way to the passage of time, as stone walls crumble and even dolmens eventually fall. I can’t escape the pun of “dole men”—so maybe my masculine aspect is “on the dole” somehow, living off the efforts of my feminine side without offering work in exchange.
In the Dreamtime Lost and Found
there’s a bubble-gum pink piggy bank
with three quarters inside. I glimpsed it there,
and it was mine, but somehow I didn’t take it.
I hope the Dreamtime Lost and Found
has the journal my daughter lost in my dream,
the story of herself, slipping away in the airport
on her way home from college.
I expect the Dreamtime Lost and Found is
where all the classrooms are,
the ones I can never find
when I need to take the test
I didn’t know I had in the
class I didn’t know I’d signed up for.
Maybe those other rooms, that show up
unexpectedly in a corner of a house
behind a hidden door, maybe those
are the lost classrooms, transformed.
The Dreamtime Lost and Found
might still have my virginity,
but since I stopped looking for it
a few years after I lost it,
maybe they tossed it out long ago.
That’d be okay, but
I do hope they keep lost dreams;
both the hopes I had for myself
and the visions that offered themselves
to my sleeping mind but then
slipped away before I could catch them
in my net of words.
Does the Dreamtime Lost and Found
have the map that shows
how I got from Chang Dung to
Chong Cheng in only four months?
Did I ride the i-Ching?
But what I really wonder is
if the Dreamtime Lost and Found
ever had the door out of the locker room–
the cement block locker room
at the end of all the long halls
where the Man chased me when I was a little girl.
He’s going to kill me, or cut me up,
at least I know he has a knife!
and please, oh please, is that doorway there?
Run, little girl! Hurry!
Run until you’re trapped
and the only way out is to
Remembering how to breathe–
that’s what matters. Being awake
doesn’t shake the fear out of my bones.
This earthquake of a dream
crumbled the foundations of my world
all my childhood years.
But at Dream Camp, things happen.
I’m pretty sure the
Dreamtime Lost and Found
hangs around the edges
looking for a chance to toss
a long-forgotten memory into the circle.
A blue shoe. A scar. A man.
What better place to use a quiet moment
to close my eyes, and re-enter
the long cement halls.
The Man, chasing me.
But this isn’t a dream,
and I’m no longer five,
so I imagine myself stopping.
Turning. Facing him for the
first time. Asking, “What do you want?
I can’t really see his face
But I can see what he has.
It’s not a knife.
It’s a golden sphere, a ball of light.
He holds it out to me.
“I have come to return
Your authentic self to you.”
Oh, little girl. How could you have known
that the Man in our nightmares
was working for the Dreamtime Lost and Found
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend panels offered by the Conference on World Affairs. I sought out the panels about creativity, spirituality, poetry, and stories. I heard a lot of things that affirmed my own experience, and other things that deepened my understanding, or challenged what I thought I knew. I’m still synthesizing it all, and one way I do that is by writing, so here goes:
Jim Borgman talked about his experience with his challenging work schedule as a political cartoonist for many years. He said he felt like Prometheus, having his innards gnawed out every day and trying to recover and fill the void every night. And it occurred to him that a better metaphor would be to think of himself as a flute, which isn’t consumed by the air that flows through it, and as he held that image in mind, the creative process stopped draining his energy. It wasn’t the first time I’d met the metaphor. I’ve often heard my dream sister, Suzanne Rouge, offer the prayer, “Let me be the hollow bone.” The image has been incredibly useful to me over the years. In my writing practice, I’ve long had the sense that the writing flows into the top/back of my head from someplace above and beyond myself, and flows out my hands. The other metaphor Jim suggested was that of a satellite dish—catching the creative vibrations and channeling them into something that could be shared with others. This also resonates with my experience—the “listening” that I do, the “tuning in” to what wants to flow through my head and fingers is very like being a satellite dish.
Yet even with that personal experience, I had only had glimpses of the epiphany that Jeff Lieberman offered from his experience. He talked about how he grew happier once he let go of the hope or expectation that the creative work he was doing would bring some future reward and just focused on the present moment, on the work at hand. I’ve certainly come to the conclusion that I write for the need of writing more than the hoped-for reward of recognition for the work, or I wouldn’t still be writing after a couple of decades without the success of, as I long defined it, getting a novel published by a New York publisher. It’s tricky to have a goal and yet not be attached to whether or not it’s achieved. Lately, though, I’ve been able to let go of the attachment to that goal, as other creative possibilities have presented themselves. Hearing Jeff’s experience reinforced that for me, though I’m aware that the attachment of my own sense of self worth to the work that flows through me is a habit of mind and that I’ll need to notice when I slip back into it.
James Tanabe offered what was for me the most compelling metaphor of all. I’ve often said that my writing practice is like breathing, meaning it is as automatic and important to me as the most fundamental act of living in a body. Yet I hadn’t really thought of it as James expressed it. He said creativity is like breathing—we experience inspiration (of breath or idea) and must follow with the exhale (of breath or creative act) in order to breathe in again. I had such an “aha” moment when I heard that. It reinforced Jeff’s discussion of how the universe was creative long before we as humans were around to think about creativity, and that we are a natural expression of that creative impulse. Of course, creativity is as essential to our lives as breathing. When the ancient religious traditions speak of humans made in God’s image, they speak of our creative urge, more primal than fear, beyond the limits of language. Thinking about that helps me overcome the habits of mind that want me to hold back my creative urges out of fear. I can only be afraid of success or failure if I attach the doing of the work to the possible outcome—the ripples in the pond—of the work itself.
Thanks to all the panelists at CWA. I have plenty more still to think about!
I hear a lot more dreams from women than from men, so my sample is skewed, but I’ve heard many dreams in which the female dreamer dreams she’s a man and not many at all from men who’ve dreamed of being a woman. However, I expect that similar themes are at play in both versions of this dream.
I’ve had many dreams of being a man. Sometimes this is just a knowing I have in the dream, like the one where I was chasing a streetcar. All the focus was outward, but I clearly knew that I was a man in the dream. In other dreams, the focus is on the distinguishing anatomy, which carries further levels of association.
For the first kind of dream, for me the knowledge that I’m a man in the dream suggests that I’m integrating masculine and feminine roles or energies. While it’s a metaphorical construct to define masculine as action oriented and decisive and feminine energy as receptive and nurturing, it can be a useful construct for examining this type of dream. If I dream I’m the opposite sex, perhaps I’m discovering parts of myself that I somehow feel “belong” with the opposite anatomy. One suggestion is to make a list of qualities, faults, and characteristics you associate with “men” and “women” and to see what on that list feels comfortable and familiar and what feels more alien. Which characteristics come into play in the dream?
To dream specifically of genitalia can of course carry all sorts of personal associations, but on a more archetypal level, the penis is associated with the power to impregnate, to provide the spark that brings something to life. It suggests potency and the ability to take action. The vulva is receptive and/or devouring, the gateway of birth and blood. Depending on the context of the dream, of course, this suggests the ability to take something in and nurture until it’s ready to enter the world.
This is an intriguing symbol, and not one I’ve encountered very much. So I’ll start with a theoretical piece about eating in dreams in general, which has resonated for me. Since we don’t need to eat in the dream world, when we do eat, the act has symbolic significance. I’ve learned a lot about this idea from Jeremy Taylor, who discusses eating in dreams on his blog at Psychology Today. I have an “aha” from his suggestion that eating in dreams can symbolize fully taking something in, integrating it into myself so that it is no longer something separate. Like so many things in life, that can have apparently paradoxical meanings. It can be a good sign that I’ve fully integrated some learning or experience, and it could indicate that I’ve taken in beliefs about myself that may or may not be true.
When I imagined cannibalism for myself, I thought about how our first nourishment in this world comes directly from the mother’s body. In the womb, we take in nutrients through her blood. We may have continued to eat from her body after birth, by drinking her milk, though that’s not literally true for every baby, since formulas were and still are used to substitute or supplement breast milk. But in utero, we were all, in a sense, cannibalistic. So the image for me represents those introjects, or beliefs about myself that came from outside of myself, that I received from my mother. Her fears, her joys, her attitude about being pregnant…all of these were emotions I experienced while in her body. Whatever these emotions imprinted on me might still be at the foundation of some belief I have about myself. The graphic horror of the dream image gets my attention in a big way, so this is something I need to know about myself.
The devouring mother is also an archetypal symbol—the Great Mother both gives birth and devours her children. So there’s a resonance for me with cannibalism in the dream, that I am experiencing something in my life that feels like the energy of the devouring mother. It’s an inexorable and inevitable process to grow and change and affect those around us in our lives, and the changes that take place sometimes are difficult to process, and may feel as repulsive as cannibalism. Challenges in life like the loss of a loved one, the shifting relationship to one’s family, the loss of a job, or a physical challenge, may be represented by the cannibalism in the dream. If I eat something, I have to process it; to take what nourishment I can from it and let go of the rest. That process can be difficult, even repugnant from my ego’s point of view, as it will inevitably change the way I understand myself, and the world. And so the dream may choose something I find repugnant in waking life to show me the hard work I’ve been doing.
Save the date! The Waking the Dreamer Within Conference will be August 8-11, 2013. It will be an inspirational weekend dedicated to dreams, art, poetry, music, and authentic expression. I’ll be offering writing workshops and I hope to see you there!
Throughout history and around the world, people have seen tornadoes as manifestations of God’s will. In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind. In Hosea, the whirlwind is the punishment of the wicked. The fearsome power of tornadoes, and wind in general, is associated with the omnipotence of deities. Because of their shape, tornadoes are also associated with spirals and so carry the weight of the created universe, from galaxies to the human ear. Yet a tornado has a wildness to it that suggests vengefulness and fury.
When a tornado shows up in a dream, it often carries with it the metaphorical meaning of a message from the Divine, or our spiritual selves. Jeremy Taylor has a thorough article on tornadoes on his website, and states that in his extensive experience, “The dream ‘tornado’, over and over again, turns out to be symbol of the dreamer’s own personal relationship to the deepest unasked and unanswered psycho-spiritual questions is his/her life, and these issues always have transpersonal implications as well.” When I dream of a tornado, then, it’s worth asking what questions I’ve been grappling with, or should be grappling with, in my psyche or spirit.
We have many images of tornadoes in our collective awareness, from the one in The Wizard of Oz to the ones that are caught on video by bystanders and tornado chasers and news cameras. It’s easy to see how such an image could influence a dreamer’s night time dreams, especially if those images were first seen at an impressionable young age. But it’s simplistic to “blame” a movie version of a tornado for repeated tornado dreams. Millions of people have seen The Wizard of Oz, yet not every person who saw it for the first time as young child has recurring tornado dreams. A more interesting approach, to me, is to ask why the image captures some people’s imaginations so strongly, while not affecting others. My projection is that the tornado shows up in dreams because, as the dreamer, I have a spiritual calling or a deep issue within my psyche that needs my attention. The tornado gets my attention in a big way, especially if the dream feels nightmarish, and by its intensity suggests that the spiritual question is of the utmost importance in my life.
The tornado in the Wizard of Oz acts as a transformative agent, taking Dorothy out of her familiar life and depositing her in a strange world where she discovers that she has more power than she’d ever imagined. This symbolism holds true in many tornado dreams, where the new, strange world is a metaphorical one, but the dreamer’s ability to discover unexpected abilities and powers is literal.