Pencil drawing: Reaching Towards by Laura Smith-Riva



 I was with my brother John and we were out on a boat. We went in the water and were swimming around under the water. It was a bright sunny day and a calm sea. I could see under the water and we went quite deep. I had a moment of fear about sharks when I saw a large fish down in the distance. It was deep so it was only a shadowy figure. We couldn’t tell if it was a shark or a dolphin. Then as we were swimming back to the boat I saw a bunch of them below me and they were dolphins. One was leading the way coming up towards me. I reached out my hand to touch her but they were still too far away. I continued to reach down towards them anticipating touching their soft smooth skin.

This dream for me is a very affirming dream. It reflects how supported I often feel in my life to enter into deeper feeling, exploring the depths. It also reflects my knee-jerk, trauma induced tendency towards distrust…perhaps how I project fear and danger onto what actually might be a place of deep desire and longing. The mind says SHARK!, but what really arises is the dolphin. It is a wonderful moment in dreams where we feel our fear and stay long enough within the space to move through it and find that there is actually something quite wonderful. So, shark vs dolphin and the great sea.

Being in the water in a dream is often a profound experience for me. A moment of feeling the great unconscious, the depths, feelings/emotions, fluidity/movement, held in the vast salty womb of the great mother. In this dream, I feel the sensuality of the water on my skin, the presence of my brother and the boat as support/safety and I feel my curiosity as we dive down. As we go deeper, the water becomes a bit darker, less clear. When the shadowing figure of a larger fish comes into focus deep down, I feel fear.

As for many of my generation who saw the iconic Jaws movies, the great white shark holds the psychic energy of predator, mortal danger. Since seeing the first Jaws movie in 1975, when I was 12, I have been afraid of being in the deeper waters of the oceans. I especially don’t like it if I can’t see what’s below. As a scuba diver, I was always aware of some little part of me scanning the distance looking for sharks.

This fear of the depths and what lurks down there and the hyper-vigilance carry the energy of trauma and how my fears become projected into the world. It reflects perhaps my instinctual self on over-drive. Perhaps how I have lived too from the place of the lone shark. It is not a bad thing to have a strong instinct for danger, but when the instinct becomes amplified by trauma, our intuition becomes muddled and we can be unconsciously reacting to life from the place of past trauma or deeply held fears. When we are unconsciously reacting, we may be making choices that go against our own desires and cause harm to ourselves and even others.

I once visited the shark exhibit at a museum and read a placard that said something to the effect that you were more likely to die from being hit by something that falls off a plane in the sky than from a shark attack. Of course the more you enter the waters where sharks live, the greater the risk.

And so it is with dreamwork, the more you enter and plumb the depths of the dream, the more likely you are to encounter that which you fear. But what does this mean?

As someone who believes that our nightly dreams have an intention for us that is not about harm but about healing, I see these potential encounters as opportunities to face into our greatest fears, our traumas and our conditioning to learn from them and ultimately experience a restoration of our deeply intuitive self, the one who truly knows the difference between shark and dolphin. Without the projections onto people, places and things, our intuition can inform us of what is truly dangerous to us. When we can drop projection, we can begin to see possibilities that in the past we would deny ourselves.

I am in the great sea, not alone and yet having an experience of movement in feeling from safety to fear/uncertainty to awe/desire/longing. Is this not a metaphor for our journeys in life, especially where we place intention around our own healing and growth?

The moment of seeing the pod of dolphins is a moment of rapture, the timelessness of profound awe and reverence. My associations with dolphins are that they live together, hunt together, rear their young ones together and as such are very social animals. They are playful and smart. They are graceful and powerful swimmers with a complex communication system and joyful affect. I very much connect them to the magical child, that part of me that knows how to live in the joy of life in connection with others.

I reach towards the dolphins as they are swimming rapidly up from the depths towards me. They seem closer than they are and I feel my own anticipation of touching them, of dolphin coming into me. Desire, sensuality, joy, playfulness…all of these qualities that I long to live more fully in.

Overcoming our fears is no small task, dropping projections is no small task, learning to live more fully in the sensuality of our lives is no small task, for even the beautiful dolphin is at times hunted, maimed, entrapped, and made to perform in captivity.

For me this dream is an affirmation of my own growth and it is also an opportunity to continue to reach towards my desire and meet it. This is the promise of the dream. And perhaps to recognize where I am seeing SHARK! when there are truly dolphins and when I am living in the lone shark energy vs the playful, connected and sensual dolphin energy.



Laura Smith-Riva is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner and Priestix of the Green Mountain Druid Order in Vermont. She works with dreamers from many parts of the globe and in her personal work is interested in the connection to the natural world through dreams and vision work and offers expressions of her journey using art, poetry and prose. Learn more about her work at