Active Dreaming- A Lifestyle
I am an active dreamer. This means I actively use my dreams to help me to negotiate my waking life reality. To me a dream is a place for exploration, just as “real” as the waking life world. It is a place for exploration and enjoyment, full of information we can use to understand waking life and our own life mission. It is a place where we can try out new skills or gain information about things to come. Being an active dreamer means taking an active role in understanding our own personal dream language and using it!
I want to share a story about a dream I had while at a weekend retreat with my dreaming community in the woods near Seattle last fall. We had gathered to share dreams and work with our teacher, Robert Moss. As I was falling asleep that night I set the intention to explore the land we were on in my sleep. In the morning I have the following dream which I titled The Social Worker.
“I seem to be a social worker working in this muddy place where there are some dwellings and people around. It is raining A LOT. A girl had lost her best friend and her bike, some sort of tragedy. I work very hard and eventually I have two bikes under a light colored tarp to present to her. This is the culmination of my work there. The presence of the second bike means that she will somehow get her friend back.
People think this is risky of me. It is time for the unveiling and I am busy making sure it will all work out. Somehow by doing this I am also helping several men. At the end of the dream I walk out on the street ( a dirt road or path), the men greet me as though I am really special, one has only one tooth in his top row of teeth. They are all so sweet.”
Following Robert’s lightening dreamwork technique I was asked a few key questions at the breakfast table the next morning: “What were your feelings?” Physically, I woke up in a warm room and a warm sleeping bag but I was cold cold cold and I felt wet, as though I had been out in the rain all night. Emotionally I felt very tender, soft, and appreciative.
“Are there elements from waking life that occurred in the dream, familiar places or people?” I am a psychotherapist, a type of social worker. One of the men reminded me of a client I saw years ago. It had indeed been pouring rain all night.
I got many helpful comments from my friends as we played the game “if it were my dream”. Robert remarked that because of my intention and because of my physical feeling of being so cold and the reality check that it rained all night, that I should consider whether, in the dream, I had indeed been exploring things going on on the land around us. He noted that people could be living in the woods here. This resonated with me and I decided to investigate and see if there might be a little girl in the neighborhood who had experienced a loss. We always make an action plan from our dreams, a way of honoring the dream and our access to the bridge between the worlds. My action plan, if I found her, was to buy this girl a bike for Christmas.
I asked the owners of the property if they knew of any little girl in the area that suffered a loss and could use a bike for Christmas. The proprietor looked surprised as she told me that earlier that very week a single mom and her 5 year old daughter had moved onto this property. The girl had lost her father a year ago, there was a restraining order that prevented him from seeing his daughter. She was distraught and had been talking about him.
So off I went to Toy's- R -Us. As I was assembling the bike over a few days I got more information about the family. I prayed for the girl continually as I put the bike together, went out again for a helmet and finally draped the whole thing in a light colored sheet as wrapping. It looked a lot like the “tarp” in my dream.
I felt very touched and excited by the whole thing. I wrote a card to the girl telling her that I had a dream about her, that the helpers all around us told me about her and that she had lost someone close to her. I said that the helpers wanted her to know that she was very SPECIAL, and she will always be LOVED and CARED FOR. I mentioned that these helpers are all around but we can't always see them.
As I wrote I realized that I lost my own father at the same age that she did and spent much of my life healing this wound. I also realized that the client the man in the dream resembled was someone who similarly lost his children when they were small, some of his work with me centered around his attempts to build relationship with them when they were adults. I began to see that the toothless man may have been my own father. He has been dead for many years.
I took the bike to the property and left it under the Christmas tree. I could hardly wait for it to get opened on Christmas morning. Eventually I received the following letter from the little girl’s mother: "Aylee, I am very sorry _______ and I were not able to meet you so that we could have given you a heart felt thank you in person for _____'s beautiful and remarkable holiday gift!...
I have heard the story of your dream and I was amazed. Not only that you had the dream, but that you also recognized and understood the significance, figured out to whom the dream pertained and followed through by actually making such an offering. This is pretty miraculous, a beautiful story that reminds us all about the presence of our guardian angels. In my tradition, Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism, the word for them is translated as "local deity protectors". In theory I should be making daily offerings to them and do sometimes. In the two months prior to your dream, I had been praying to them extensively. So I am not surprised that they were reaching out, only surprised by the exact avenues they took to reach us…
As far as the specifics, everything, the bike and helmet, fit like a dream! _____ brightened up to find such a gift under the huge Christmas tree and we are excited to bring the bike to parks near our new residence for little excursions after we are settled."
To be an active dreamer is to live daily in a powerfully magical world. By carrying out this action plan I was given an opportunity to heal backward and forward, not just for she and I, and perhaps our fathers, but hopefully affecting the whole pattern of violence and estrangement in families in our times.