Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh coined a phrase Engaged Buddhism referring to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice. We are deep in the midst of these times on every front.

Fellow dreamwork practitioner, Kezia Kamenetz, asked the International Association for the Study of Dreams community to share their thoughts on how working with our dreams can play a role in healing not only ourselves but the world around us. Following is my response…

“I am reminded of something Stephen Levine shared in his workshop “In the Heart Lies the Deathless.” During a meditation retreat, in a deep state…not unlike a waking dream…an image rose where he saw cattle cars being loaded with people, the sounds of the train wheels, the smells, the looks of fear and pain on people’s faces…and he thought, “Ah, Stephen, how wonderful it is you associate with the oppressed and feel their pain.”

There was a rest break and then back to the zafu…deep in…and another image…an immediate return to the same scene…yet this time Stephen looked down and saw his feet…the shiny leather boots of the Gestapo…the oppressor… and he was horrified by it. He also had to wisdom to see the teaching. When we believe we ourselves are somehow above, better than…are incapable of darkness…we turn others into ‘other’…and we make space for judgement, separation and worse.

When we are willing to work with our dreams we are shown all the ways we are both the oppressed and the oppressor, both of ourselves and others. Our dreams want to bring this to light…and want us to feel the pain of that…a pain that can begin a healing.

Can we arrive at a place where, when facing an oppressor, we react not with hatred…but respond with a heart that recognizes and feels the pain and blindness of one so lost…and from that place be in relationship with ourselves and each other.”

Like engaged Buddhism, the practice of engaged dreaming not only asks of us…it requires something of us…that we recognize that the path to healing ourselves and our tattered planet begins with looking into our own hearts, our own ways of being…to willingly bring into consciousness what needs our awareness and kind presence…and to make more enlightened choices.

Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com or www.thenaturaldream.com