As humanity reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m aware I’ve reacted like this in my dreams.
Some proclaim, “We are at war with the virus.” I’ve dreamed I was a soldier in bunker, a resistance fighter in an occupied city, fighting against unseen oppressive forces. Others talk of “defeating” the virus, “outsmarting” it, showing it “we’re in control.” Every night in dreams I seek but fail to regain control – of a raucous classroom, a cellphone I can’t dial, a vehicle I’m steering, or a spreading mess I’m cleaning.
People wonder when we can go back to normal, to life as it is supposed to be. I dream of wandering, hurrying, trying to get where I used to be, to do what I’m supposed to be doing. I scurry through dreams without clear understanding of where or what that place or task is, ending up far from where I was going, avoiding interactions with strange people and places that surprise me along the way.
People worry, “I could lose – I am losing – everything! My savings, my job, my life!” I lose my wallet often in dreams, and panic that my money could be stolen, my I.D, credit cards missing. Dreams offer me new freedoms, but I clutch at old limitations believing I can’t sing, can’t afford the offered luxury, shouldn’t eat the dream’s delicious food. I stay a pauper when what I deeply need is at hand.
People describe feeling isolated, alone, disconnected during quarantine. I dream of sitting by myself instead of joining a laughing group, of walking away from crowds believing I do not belong. I plod up a cliff with a burden on my back, toughing it out alone, even after a kind dream man asks, “Can I help?”
People say they are afraid, disinfecting every surface, anxiously searching the internet to learn how the virus spreads and how to keep it at bay. In countless dreams, I fuss with a lock which won’t close. I battle an unseen intruder who keeps opening the door no matter how many times I push them away and bolt the locks again.
People say we are overreacting, this is just a flu, and we should go back to business as usual. In dreams, I’ve ignored crying children, injured people, treated them as nuisances. I’ve dreamed of a dying old woman who insists she is fine and staggers on refusing the medical help offered.
And when I go shopping and can’t find any toilet paper or disinfecting wipes on long box-store aisles, I remember many dreams in which I enter filthy bathrooms, the floor covered in muck, my feet bare, no toilet paper left in the stall.
Because of these parallels, I am deeply grateful for my sustained practice of Natural Dreamwork, begun in response to personal experiences of ground shifting under my feet. I came to Natural Dreamwork after a series of mid-life losses, including my mother’s death, menopause, and empty nesting, each one increasing my feelings of having lost who I used to be. Before dreamwork, I tried to return to that “I”, determined to get back to normal. But the harder I clutched at who I had been, the more that former self seemed an out-grown carapace needing to be shed. This shedding, I started to see, was required at a soul level, if I were to surrender to midlife’s opportunity for spiritual initiation. I discovered Natural Dreamwork after beginning this surrender.
Dreamwork has relentlessly challenged my ego, the part of me that wants to clutch at the old normal, that wants to be in control, that hates the feeling of surrender. Dreamwork has intensified the sensation of the ground shifting under my ego’s feet. It has been hard work, letting go the ego’s habitual control, learning to be compassionate to old wounds that limit aliveness, learning to open to love and relationship at its most sacred depths.
Dreamwork gives me a practice and context through which to experience, learn from, and trust the liminal. Liminality is the disorienting, unsettling space of unknowing, where soul-driven transformation melts away ego’s leaden defenses, so that authentic, compassionate life can be born.
The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly thrust us into a global liminal state. But we have been entering this liminality for decades, with ever-increasing awareness of the unsustainable costs and injustices of the old industrial world order, whose final trajectory is ecocide. We refuse to heed the warnings. We keep barreling along, reacting whenever the Earth’s distress intrudes into our consciousness by doubling down on the egoic political and economic forces that we believe give us control over everything.
In dreams, the sacred encounter occurs when we meet with feeling the strange and frightening beings that the ego doubles down on avoiding, combatting, or rejecting. Often the sacred encounter in the dream is something humble and ordinary – a baby, a dog, a playful child, a mother giving us a peanut-butter sandwich – or something repulsive – a desiccated elephant carcass, an open wound, a snake, a tornado. To experience the sacred encounter, we must slow down, stop, look again, feel, fall to our knees, stay in the liminal space and there surrender to surprising vulnerability and awe.
In the collective dream of humanity, the COVID-19 virus has provided us such an encounter. This strange, frightening virus is also something very humble, ordinary, a part of nature that we consider repulsive, the lowest of the low, and the least desirable. Yet it has slowed us, reduced the number of cars on the highways, halved the air-pollution of our cities, stopped our frantic doing, buying, consuming, and made us live in profound awareness of how interconnected our lives are.
When I hear others’ defensive, impulsive reactions to this virus, I am grateful that dreamwork has taught me to see my own fear, anxiety, and desperate attempts to control. I am also grateful for how dreamwork has helped me experience the love, deep relationship, and healing that occurs when the sacred moment is met with willingness to stay vulnerable to what is here right now. Yes, a pandemic brings huge loss and fear. But this virus is also medicine, something corrective and mysterious that responds to our profound dis-ease. In its presence, people have begun recognizing a basic need for connection, play, and relatedness that we ignore while racing around unconsciously in our lonely, hectic, over-consumed lives. People sing to each other from balconies, police dance to guitar folksongs on the streets, women sew brightly colored face masks for health-care workers, fathers walk with dogs and children in neighborhoods normally vacant in the middle of the workweek, strangers seek out those in need, and ask, “Can I help?” These are the miraculous encounters of our dreams. They are happening now, all around us.
Natural Dreamwork teaches me that healing my unconscious, conditioned reactivity, so apparent in my dreams, is also how I will mature into the spiritual humility and collective human awakening our imperiled Earth achingly needs. What is needed in the inner world is needed in the outer. Each dreamer’s individual healing of his or her relationship to soul will contribute to healing humanity’s relationship to Earth.
I expect to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. But I believe our collective liminal transition – from the dying ego-centric industrial age, to a future eco-centric relationship to Earth – will last far beyond our lifetimes. The ground will keep shifting under our feet for decades to come. I am grateful to have dreamwork as a primary spiritual practice to help me live amidst such a planet-wide ground-shifting time. Those living in the next century, or so, might start to see the era of rebirth that arrives after a long liminal unraveling. How we will live in that time of rebirth is beyond anything we will ever know or imagine. Our task is to wait, shed, surrender.
Last night I dreamed I sat on a hillside with an older woman as we awaited the arrival of visiting aliens from outer space, a great unknown presence, whose ways I knew nothing of. As I looked out into the darkness in fear, I asked the older woman, “How will it feel when they arrive? Will it hurt? Will they experiment on our bodies?” And she, who remembered living through such an encounter before, answered, “It will feel unlike anything we have ever known…”
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most liminal experience those of us now living have undergone. Future years will bring more such mysterious visitations, teaching us that human will, ego, what we believe makes us all-powerful, cannot carry us through to what is most needed at the level of Earth and soul. May we humbly and deeply take in the medicine that COVID-19 now offers. It will help prepare us for further impending global change by making us less defended. May this time teach us to wait, shed, surrender, and receive with humility and reverence all such sacred medicine offered in coming years by dreaming soul and dreaming Earth.
Image: Kneeling by Liza Hyatt
Liza Hyatt, ATR-BC, LMHC is a Natural Dream work practitioner, board certified art therapist and licensed mental health counselor in Indianapolis. For more information about spiritual growth through dreamwork with Liza, please contact her at email@example.com. You can learn more about Liza on the About Us page of our website.
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