I join all of us in the Natural Dreamwork community, teachers, practitioners, clients and friends of the work, in mourning the loss of our dear teacher and friend, Mary Jo Heyen. For Mary Jo contemplating dreams was a very serious spiritual practice and it led her from being a client, to a practitioner, to a teacher of this work far and wide. If I could think of a single word for Mary Jo’s quality of soul, it is steadfastness. From the very beginning, and even long before we began working together, she knew for certain that dreams would provide the most significant spiritual path for her As she wrote me ahead of our very first session:
Ever since I was a young woman I looked towards my sixties, sensing that they held some fruition of my inner work. I’ve always paid attention to my dreams, diligently so in the past five years (the freedom that retirement provides). Keys show up often in my dreams, yet I don’t know what they unlock. So, at this precious time in my life, I return to my dreams and am committed to them. I trust them, I am ‘in love’ with them, be they filled with love or terror.
Mary Jo touched so many lives with her strong love of dreams, with her honesty and kindness, her generosity, and her steadfastness to hold to the truth. The many clients who worked with her all over the world, knew how beautifully she gave over the gifts of the dream. Within her own community in Estes Park, Colorado, Mary Jo established herself as an important presence, teaching dreamwork from her beautiful office in town, teaching meditation, volunteering for hospice work and leading grief works. With her husband Joe Heyen she did many good works and charitable deeds, often anonymously. Generosity is an important word in defining Mary Jo’s approach to life, her living was about giving. With generosity, she served on the original Steering Committee for the Natural Dreamwork organization, and also extended herself personally to help other practitioners. She served as a cherished mentor for many, and was always willing to listen and offer counsel with great generosity of spirit.
I know that we in the Natural Dreamwork community of practitioners and clients feel a profound sense of loss right now. But we should also take comfort. Mary Jo’s life illustrated the tremendous transformational power of dreams. She took them seriously and they guided her every step of the way. As she wrote in her book Dreaming Into the Mystery, “My own dreamwork is to this day my priority and my greatest teacher and it’s what helps me to be a trustworthy companion and guide when I step in with another’s dreams.”
Her commitment to her dreams meant that she let them guide her. At a certain point in her work, for instance, her dreams clearly showed her it was important for her to write and publish, and so she did. Her writing was always clear deep and direct and reached a wide audience in the larger community of dreamworkers including the IASD, and far beyond that. Her dreams guided her, and sometimes rebuked her, and her capacity to receive the difficult admonitions, and the feelings of pain and fear that dreams open us to, was something I deeply admired. She never flinched, she let her dreams speak to her and they spoke back, and guided her all along the way.
Mary Jo and I had a secret password which was the simple word, “hey.” It came from a dream we worked together in which she came upon a young woman who was sick and miserable and soiled. Mary Jo came to her, and instead of using a lot of words, she simply made her presence known by saying, “Hey.” That tender “hey” was straight from her heart. Mary Jo was gifted with language, but the lesson of the dream for her and for me is that more important than the right words is being present with the other and in such a case, the fewer words the better.
Such dreams often offered her support for the work she did with dream clients, and taught her ways of being with dreams and dreamers that can be learned no other way. But as useful as they were in helping others, the dreams were also teaching her how to be tender with her own soul, to honor and respect her true desires, and to distinguish them from what others demanded; to cherish her feelings of connection and love, and to accept her feelings of pain, of terror and discomfort. And– this is often the hardest part– to face her own reactivity without judging herself harshly and categorically.
Although she began as my client and my student, over our eleven years of working together, I confess with pride and humility that our relationship deepened and she became my teacher as well. Our relationship was tender and loving right to the very end, where we met every day and continued to follow her dreams. She died very consciously and with great nobility.
When I think of dreams as a sacred encounter, I now add the sense, thanks to Mary Jo, that our work with dreamers is inherently sacred, and that the conversations we are having with each other over dreams is a sacred conversation. It is good to remember this. Mary Jo taught me that, not only through words, but through her very being and presence. I know I will miss her gravely, we will all miss her, and yet her words and her example will continue to guide us far into the future.
And I hear Mary Jo saying to me, right now in my grief, ‘Hey.”
Here is Mary Jo’s obituary:
On June 5, 2022, Mary Jo Heyen died peacefully at home with Joe, her high school sweetheart and husband of 52 years, by her side. These past few weeks our home has been filled with tears and laughter, grief and gratitude.
Her desire for her obituary was that it be kept simple. A quote from one of her favorite mystics, Teresa de Avila, “The closer one approaches to God, the simpler one becomes.”
Mary Jo enjoyed a wonderful 30 year career as a high school Spanish teacher and is still in close relationship with many of her students.
At age 55 she returned to her life’s calling and that was to explore sacred relationships that come in our dreams and help us remember our soul self. She was a Practitioner of Natural Dreamwork, working with clients throughout the world and hospice patients and families to help them find the healing medicine in every dream. Her experiences of this are shared in her book, Dreaming into the Mystery: Explorations into the Dreams and Visions of the Dying.
A friend recently asked Mary Jo, “Are you going to have a Celebration of Life?” She said, “I already did! And what’s so delicious is that I got to attend. During these past few weeks there has been such an outpouring of love and support from so many beautiful people. They shared their memories of me and what my presence has meant to them. I got to hear all this sweetness while I’m still here to receive all this love. Their words and love help carry me over this next threshold.”
Both Joe and Mary Jo express deep appreciation to Drs. Norris and Payden and the entire staff at Timberline Medical and to Nancy Bell and Kathleen Theriault at Estes Park Health Hospice.
In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation to Estes Park Health Hospice at https://eph.org/give-volunteer/estes-park-health-foundation/
Or Estes Park Health Foundation, PO Box 3650, Estes Park, CO 80517
… to be continued.
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